A US Senate panel dealt a setback to Donald Trump on Tuesday by rejecting the president’s pick to head the Export-Import Bank.
But it approved four other nominees to the board, a step that would restore the bank’s full lending powers if they are approved by the full Senate.
The administration had nominated Scott Garrett, a Republican former congressman from New Jersey, who has been a longtime opponent of the bank that helps US exporting firms compete overseas, once saying it “embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.”
But in the Senate Banking Committee, a handful of pro-trade Republicans joined Democrats and voted 13 to 10 against installing him as ExIm’s new president.
“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 ExIm,” Senate Democrat Sherrod Brown said shortly before the vote.
“To put it plainly, we’ve lost American jobs because of the games that have been played with the Export-Import Bank.”
The 83-year-old bank provides favorable financing to US firms seeking to sell their products abroad, such as aircraft manufacturer Boeing, and protects them against foreign buyer defaults.
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, where Boeing has a final assembly plant for its Dreamliner aircraft, voted against Garrett.
US lawmakers, led by conservative Republicans pushing for smaller government, including Garrett, let the bank lapse in 2015.
The bank’s charter was renewed later that year, but since then the Senate has refused to act on any of then-president Barack Obama’s nominations to ExIm’s board.
Trump was deeply critical of the bank during the 2016 presidential campaign, but he softened his attacks once he entered the White House and said he no longer wanted to eliminate ExIm.
Brown said there were $37 billion worth of transactions that the bank could not move forward because the board lacks a quorum.