WASHINGTON ― As a Republican congressman from New Jersey, Scott Garrett took to the floor of the House in 2015 and lambasted the Export-Import Bank as an institution that “embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.” He consistently opposed the reauthorization of the bank and wanted to shutter it.
Now, he wants to run it.
Garrett lost his re-election bid in 2016 ― in large part because he lost the backing of financial institutions after he made anti-gay remarks. In April, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate him to lead the institution that helps finance U.S. exports.
Trump’s pick has split many traditional GOP allies, with groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposing Garrett’s confirmation.
Now that he needs a new job and wants to run the bank, Garrett is trying to reassure everyone that he supports it.
“Let me be crystal clear on this point: If I am confirmed, the Export-Import Bank will continue to fully operate, point-blank,” Garrett told the Senate banking committee Wednesday morning.
But what Garrett was less clear about was why he changed his mind. Democratic senators repeatedly pressed Garrett on why they should believe he’s now sincere.
“It seems to me what’s changed is you’ve been offered this good-paying job to run the Export-Import Bank, not the change of the Export-Import Bank, but perhaps the change of your situation,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said.
“I believe in this bank, and I’m not sure you do,” added Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who was frustrated that Garrett refused to say he was wrong in his previous denunciations of the agency.
My role has changed. I am not in a legislative function. Scott Garrett, nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank
“Will you admit now that your crusade to kill the bank was a mistake?” asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Garrett, again, refused to do so.
While Democratic senators were the ones who mainly pressed Garrett on this point, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) did so as well.
“The reason for the change is perhaps more important than the change,” he said.
Garrett never really gave a policy explanation for why he shifted on the bank. His reversal came down to two main reasons: Trump is president, and he now wants to run the bank.
“Senator, if the question is, what has changed since 2015, what we have seen changed is a new administration,” Garrett told Brown. “What we have seen change is a new agenda by this administration to see to it that the economy actually grows, and that businesses are given a fair chance to grow their businesses both nationally and internationally as well. That is a significant change since 2015.”
Later, Garrett also told Scott, “My role has changed. I am not in a legislative function.”
“I commit ... to carry out the letter of the law as established by Congress,” he added.
Garrett later clarified that he didn’t oppose gay people running for office, but he believed the GOP should not support candidates who back same-sex marriage. His comments cost him support from Wall Street donors, who had been a major source of funding for his previous campaigns.
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