WASHINGTON — Two Republicans joined a united Democratic opposition on Tuesday to reject President Trump’s nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank, a former congressman who had wanted to see the government’s export credit agency shuttered.
The former lawmaker, Scott Garrett, a Republican from New Jersey who lost his bid for re-election last year, was rejected by the Senate Banking Committee in a 13-10 vote.
Since the Depression, the Export-Import Bank has offered government-backed loan guarantees to overseas customers wishing to buy products manufactured in the United States. But the agency — once backed by large majorities in both parties — has more recently divided the Republicans.
Some, pressed by conservative outside groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, have tarred the bank as crony capitalism and called for its closure. Others, bolstered by business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have tried to revive it. The agency has been effectively crippled since 2015.
On Tuesday, the business wing of the party struck back. Republican Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina and Michael Rounds of South Dakota joined 11 Democrats to reject Mr. Garrett’s nomination.
“I believe he’s a principled man who simply believes in the abolishment of the bank,” Mr. Rounds said. “I think that strong desire on his part to see it abolished as an example of crony capitalism would not have worked in the operation of the bank.”
Mr. Scott, whose state hosts a huge manufacturing plant of Boeing, the bank’s largest customer, said: “My belief is that we need to both reform the Export-Import Bank and ensure it continues to function as an important tool for American businesses large and small. Given Mr. Garrett’s long history opposing the Ex-Im Bank, I believe it would be hard for him to accomplish both of those goals.”
Mr. Garrett had been an outspoken critic of the bank, making him a curious choice to lead it. Since his nomination, he had expressed a newfound respect for the agency, but his conversion was not convincing to a majority of the Banking Committee.
“Mr. Garrett was a leader of the effort to slam shut the doors of America’s export financing bank, and he can’t hide his contempt for Ex-Im,” said Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Banking Committee. “His testimony expressed no regret for his work to close the bank.”
The demise of Mr. Garrett’s nomination presents the White House with a choice on where to go. Since 2015, Republican opponents have blocked approval of enough members of the Export-Import Bank’s board of directors to give the bank a quorum to approve loan guarantees larger than $10 million. That has crippled the agency and its ability to support the nation’s largest private-sector exports.