Politics

Steny Hoyer Really Wants to Talk About Scott Garrett

Minority whip asks Banking Committee for chance to testify against former colleague

House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., really doesn’t want former Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., to run the Export-Import Bank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There is apparently no love lost between House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and his former House colleague, Republican Scott Garrett of New Jersey.

On Wednesday, Hoyer told the Senate Banking Committee he wants to testify against Garrett’s nomination to head the Export-Import Bank, saying Garrett is “precisely the wrong pick to lead the” bank, writing in a letter to the panel that Garrett “led efforts to block its reauthorization and played a key role in causing a lapse in its charter.”

The panel has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 1 to consider Garrett’s nomination, as well as other nominees to the bank’s board. 

“It is important for the Members of your Committee to fully understand the destructive role Mr. Garrett played during his tenure in the House and would undoubtedly continue at the Bank,” Hoyer wrote in the strongly worded letter. 

The minority whip isn’t alone in opposing Garrett’s nomination.

He faces an unusual combination of Democrats and business groups opposing his nomination.

Garrett, who lost his bid for re-election in 2016, is part of the wing of the Republican Party that sees the Ex-Im Bank’s loan, insurance and guarantee programs as corporate welfare. Garrett was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus.

He voted against reauthorization of the bank in 2015 after a six-month lapse in its charter, describing that legislation as “the resurrection of a bank that embodies the corruption of the free-enterprise system.”

That raised hackles in the business community.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers oppose his confirmation. And nine Senate Democrats who met with him in August called the encounter “bizarre,” saying Garrett wouldn’t answer questions about his years of opposition to the bank when he was a senior figure on the House Financial Services Committee.

Congress reauthorized the bank in December 2015 for four years. The confirmation of board members would give it a quorum that it hasn’t had since early 2015. The lack of a quorum prevents it from doing deals worth more than $10 million.

President Donald Trump has also nominated former Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus III, Kimberly Reed, Claudia Slacik and Judith Delzoppo Pryor to the board. Bachus is a former House Financial Services Committee chairman. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in September it “strongly endorsed” those four nominees.

The chamber said it was worried about reports that it could “derail the confirmations of the other four well-qualified nominees should Mr. Garrett’s nomination be rejected in Committee or in the full Senate.”

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, has blasted Garrett, saying his confirmation would amount to “a terrible trade deal for our country. His record of aggressively undermining the Ex-Im Bank is tantamount to a vicious trade war against American manufacturing workers.”

Garrett has supporters as well. On Oct. 6, 27 House members wrote to Senate Banking Chairman Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, and ranking member Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to support the entire slate of Ex-Im Bank board nominees “and especially” Garrett.

“As former colleagues in the House, we can state unequivocally that Scott Garrett is a principled reformer who will greatly aid the President and his cabinet to remove corporate cronyism from the federal government,” said the letter signed by, among others, Freedom Caucus founding member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Doug Sword contributed to this report.

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