WASHINGTON — Two Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee helped to block President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank in a critical vote Tuesday.
Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Tim Scott of South Carolina joined all Democrats on the committee to oppose Scott Garrett, a critic of the Export-Import Bank who voted twice to eliminate it as a member of Congress.
"My message to the White House has been sometimes it's the responsibility of the Senate to advise, but not to consent. And that's what we tried to do in this case," Rounds told NBC News after the vote, which stops the nomination from moving forward.
The Ex-Im Bank, which provides government-backed loans to U.S. companies that export goods and services overseas, has caused a split among some Republicans. Those like Rounds say that the bank helps corporations and companies finance their business in the foreign market. Others, like the conservative Club for Growth, say that it is a mechanism for corporate welfare and creates an uneven playing field.
"Today, Tim Scott and Mike Rounds stood arm and arm with Democrats to oppose Scott Garrett, President Trump's nominee to head the Ex-Im Bank," said Rachel Slobodien, a spokeswoman for the Club for Growth. "With this vote, not only did they oppose President Trump, they voted in favor of cronyism and corruption to remain business as usual in Washington."
Business interests are at stake. Central to the fight is American-owned Boeing, which is the Ex-Im Bank's largest benefactor. If the bank scales back or stops operating, Boeing's largest competitor, the European-owned Airbus, will benefit.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., voted for Garrett. Airbus built its first American plant in Alabama.
But Scott voted against Garrett, even though Boeing employs 6,800 people in South Carolina.
"The conclusion of my research was while we need a lot of reforms of the bank, the question I had to wrestle with was whether or not Mr. Garrett's positions, which have been clear for the last decade or so, many years, had changed in substance," Scott said. "And I could not find really any evidence that they had."
Garrett's failure to pass committee makes him the 14th Trump nominee to not make it through the Senate, according to an NBC News count.