By Andrew Ackerman
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Export-Import Bank faces a crucial test as early as next week, with a Senate panel weighing a vote on his nomination. A majority vote against the troubled pick, Scott Garrett, could effectively end his candidacy.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, could call a vote as early as Tuesday on the nomination of Mr. Garrett, a former House lawmaker tapped by Mr. Trump earlier this year to head the beleaguered export-finance agency, according to people familiar with the deliberations of the panel’s members.
The vote carries high stakes for Mr. Garrett, a former New Jersey congressman, because he currently lacks the majority needed to advance his nomination through the committee and to the full Senate. All of the banking panel’s Democrats and two of its Republicans — Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Tim Scott of South Carolina — are expected to vote against Mr. Garrett over his past opposition to the Export-Import Bank’s existence.
In addition to Mr. Garrett, the panel is preparing to hold votes on a handful of other, noncontroversial nominees for vacancies at the bank, the people said. Should the other nominees advance out of committee, the Senate could still move to confirm at least some of them in the coming months, handing the bank’s board the quorum necessary to approve large financing deals for the first time in more than two years.
No vote has been publicly announced and the timing could slip, these people said. But Mr. Crapo has privately told representatives for manufacturers opposed to Mr. Garrett that he is eager to have the issue off his plate, according to a person familiar with the remarks.
Spokeswomen for Mr. Crapo and the White House declined to comment.
The Ex-Im Bank needs at least three of its five board seats filled to be able to approve financing for deals over $10 million. It currently has just one board member after C.J. Hall, who had been its acting chairman, stepped down last week.
The agency helps support U.S. exports by guaranteeing loans to foreign buyers and providing credit insurance. Its backers say it allows U.S. companies to compete on equal footing with foreign rivals that receive similar support from their home governments. But some Republicans have argued the bank amounts to corporate welfare and should be shut down — a view shared until recently by Mr. Garrett.
Mr. Garrett reversed his prior opposition to the agency in Senate testimony in November, pledging to keep the bank “fully functioning” if confirmed. But Mr. Rounds and Mr. Scott have said they remain opposed to the nomination, along with several large manufacturers such as General Electric Co. and Boeing Co. and industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The White House and conservative lawmakers, including Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), have said the only politically viable path to a quorum is to confirm Mr. Garrett along with several other noncontroversial nominations to key Ex-Im Bank posts. Mr. Toomey, who supports Mr. Garrett’s nomination, has said he will try to block the other nominees if the former House lawmaker isn’t confirmed.
Before stepping down, Mr. Hall told The Wall Street Journal that the bank could become a drain on U.S. taxpayers next year if the Senate doesn’t act to fill its board, because it has stopped bringing in enough revenue through the fees it charges to guarantee financing deals for U.S. exporters.
As of November, the Export-Import Bank had $37.5 billion in pending transactions that can’t move forward because the board lacks a quorum.
–Josh Zumbrun contributed to this article.
Write to Andrew Ackerman at [email protected]
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