Pressure builds from back home for Tim Scott to oppose Ex-Im Bank nominee

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is considered a swing vote when it comes to advancing, or stymieing, the nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is considered a swing vote when it comes to advancing, or stymieing, the nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank. AP

Pressure is building in South Carolina for Sen. Tim Scott to oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Export-Import Bank.

The South Carolina Republican was the target of a press call on Tuesday from the presidents of the National Association of Manufactures and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Both men laid out a dire scenario for the domestic workforce in the event Scott Garrett, a former New Jersey Republican congressman, is confirmed as the Ex-Im Bank’s president.

The Ex-Im Bank provides loan guarantees to American companies selling goods to foreign customers. The bank is critical to South Carolina’s economy, as major manufacturing giants such as Boeing, General Electric and others have plants in the state.

The Senate Banking Committee will hold Garrett’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday morning. Scott is viewed a critical committee swing vote who could be able to determine whether to advance or stymie the controversial contender.

“We’re confident Sen. Scott is going to make the right decision here, and he’s ultimately going to put the interest of South Carolina workers above or ahead of anything else,” said Ted Pitts, the head of the state Chamber. “He is a true public servant. We’re hopeful he’s going to understand the impact that this would have.”

“We have a great relationship with the senator,” added NAM president Jay Timmons, “and we want to make sure the senator understands how a vote for Scott Garrett would adversely affect manufacturers in South Carolina and across the United States.”

Timmons said the NAM would resume a digital ad buy in South Carolina in the days ahead to warn the Palmetto State about the “terrible trade deal” that would result in Garrett’s confirmation. NAM launched a similar online and radio campaign in August.

Garrett was a fierce opponent of the bank as a member of Congress. He even helped lead the fight to block reauthorization of the federal agency for several months, calling it tantamount to corporate welfare.

During the time the bank was shuttered in early 2015, GE was forced to shift roughly 400 jobs to France, with some of those coming from South Carolina’s plant in Greenville.

After the bank was reauthorized at the end of 2015, some Senate Republicans refused throughout 2016 to advance nominees to allow the Ex-Im Bank board to operate at full capacity to approve and finance loans. This contributed to some uncertainty for Boeing in North Charleston.

This history was enough for Scott to declare over the summer that “absent a clear public statement that ensures (Garrett) will not dismantle the bank, I will not support his nomination for Ex-Im Chairman.”

In prepared remarks published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday morning, however, Garrett suggested he had changed his ways and was now prepared to support the Ex-Im Bank as chairman. Scott also told McClatchy last week that Garrett appeared to be “moving in the right direction” since the last time the two spoke.

Pitts and Timmons cautioned Scott and others not to buy Garrett’s rhetoric or believe he’s had a change of heart.

“It really doesn’t matter what he says, he’ll say whatever he needs to say to get a job,” said Timmons. “This is a guy who wants a job more than he cares about 1.4 million jobs the Ex-Im Bank supports.”

“A guy who switches positions on you … down south we say, ‘that dog won’t hunt,’” said Pitts.

In advance of Wednesday’s hearing, Scott would not say which way he was currently leaning, but indicated he generally believed presidents should be able to fill their administrations with the individuals of their choosing unless there was a compelling reason to oppose them.

Emma Dumain: 202-383-6126, @Emma_Dumain