WASHINGTON, D.C.—Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, listened to testimony and questioned nominees for the Export-Import Bank, an independent federal government agency which offers loans, insurance and guarantees to small and large businesses that export products and services.
In June, President Donald Trump formally nominated two new members, former U.S. Reps. Scott Garrett, R-N.J. and Spencer T. Bachus III, R-Ala., to the Export-Import Bank's board of directors for four years. The bank's board needs three out of five members to reach a quorum to approve deals over $10 million which support large and small business across the country.
"Let me be crystal clear on this point: If I am confirmed, the Export-Import Bank will continue to
fully operate, point blank," Garrett said in his prepared remarks. "It will continue to approve the many loans that support our American manufacturers' ability to export their products."
He added that if confirmed he would "ensure that the Ex-Im bank operates as intended by the law."
During the hearing, U.S. Sen. Heitkamp, D-N.D. questioned Garrett on his past statements opposing the bank.
When he was in Congress Garrett voted twice against reauthorization of the bill.
"... Over the past several years, some members of Congress have stalled the bank from operating or fully functioning for political reasons, hurting those American workers and businesses, and Scott Garrett helped lead the charge when he was in Congress," Heitkamp said in a statement. "(Wednesday) I asked him for an apology to the American small businesses and workers he hurt by his staunch, political opposition to the Export-Import Bank, an agency which he ironically he now wants to lead. But he refused the chance to reconcile his past, or to prove he wouldn't act as a saboteur of the bank."
Former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., called the bank "corporate welfare" in 2015 and said that if the bank could not be "reformed to become a vehicle for real job creation in the United States, it should be eliminated."
Heitkamp, however, says the Ex-Im Bank "doesn't cost taxpayers a dime, has supported thousands of U.S. jobs including many across North Dakota." She said "supporting it should be a no-brainer."
"It's interesting that now that Garrett wants a job, he's suddenly had a change of tune. Unfortunately for him, I don't buy it and neither do the American workers he left stranded when he was in Congress."
Kristin Hedger, who serves as vice president for business development at Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing in Killdeer, said the Ex-Im Bank is important because it can benefit small businesses, like KMM, who supply to businesses like Boeing.
"The loan may be issued in support of a purchase from a large corporation but that large corporation empowers a supply chain," she said.
In June 2015, Congress allowed the Export-Import Bank to expire, but it was reauthorized in December 2015. But the agency still has not been able to fully function because Senate Republicans have declined to act on nominations to the Ex-Im board
Hedger said she thinks the hearing was a "good step forward" in getting the bank functional again.
"It was a very good step and I think North Dakota was represented very well," she said.
The committee did not vote Wednesday on advancing Garrett's nomination and is expected to make a recommendation later this month.