December 19, 2017 at 11:50 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Anti-LGBT Trump nominee to Export-Import Bank rejected by Senate

Anti-LGBT Scott Garrett was rejected as president of the Export-Import Bank. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via wikimedia)

Amid objections from LGBT groups, the U.S. Senate rejected on Tuesday a Trump nominee to the U.S. Export-Import Bank with a history of anti-LGBT views.

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs rejected the nomination of Scott Garrett on a bipartisan vote of 10-13. In June, Trump nominated Garrett as president of the Export-Import Bank, which provides finance assistance to help foreign entities buy U.S. exports.

Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) joined Democrats in voting “no.”

During his career as a U.S. House member representing New Jersey between 2003 and 2017, Garrett supported anti-LGBT measures. The lawmaker was a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, a federal “religious freedom” bill seen to enable discrimination against LGBT people.

A champion of the Federal Marriage Amendment, Garrett also spoke out in 2004 on the House floor in favor of the measure, which would have banned same-sex marriage across the country.

“I rise today in full support of this body’s effort to preserve the sacred institution of marriage,” Garrett said. “Children are best served when they are raised and influenced by a mom and a dad, and marriage must continue to be the institution to best raise children and not simply for the desires of adults.”

But Garrett stood out from other Republicans in terms of anti-LGBT views. In 2015, Politico reported he’d refuse to contribute money to the National Republican Congressional Committee because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries. Just two years earlier, Richard Tisei, who’s gay, had obtained the Republican nomination to run for the seat representing Massachusetts’ 6th congressional district.

In 2016, Garrett’s anti-LGBT views were a major issue in his campaign to retain his seat representing New Jersey’s 5th congressional district. The Republican ended up losing to Democrat Joshua Gottheimer, who now occupies the seat.

But the basis for Garrett’s rejection in the Senate seems less about his anti-LGBT views and more about his position of the Export-Import Bank.

As a U.S. House member, Garrett voted to shut down the bank. The institution has many GOP critics, who say it promotes cronyism, distorts markets and unfairly helps large corporations and foreign entities.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement Garrett shouldn’t have been confirmed to seat because of his hostility toward the bank as a lawmaker.

“In order for U.S. manufacturers to compete in a global economy, we need a fully functional Ex-Im Bank,” Warner said. “Without it, U.S. companies are at a major disadvantage against their foreign counterparts. But Rep. Garrett’s long record of attacking and undermining the Export-Import Bank mean that he is not fit to lead it.”

Had Garrett been confirmed as chair of the Export-Import Bank, he would succeeded Obama administration appointee Fred Hochberg, who’s openly gay and one of the most senior LGBT appointees in the Obama administration.

Garrett also may have had to serve alongside Claudia Slacik, whom Trump appointed to the board of the Export-Import Bank. One of a handful of Trump’s openly gay nominees, she said in her confirmation testimony she has been married to a woman for five years.

In a separate vote of 20-3, the committee advanced her nomination to Senate floor. The three “no” votes were Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who were “no” votes on a series of Export-Import Bank nominees.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during the daily briefing Tuesday the administration is “disappointed” Garrett was rejected and believes the Senate “missed an opportunity,” but wouldn’t say for certain the nomination is withdrawn.

Sanders said the White House will work with the Senate committee to find “a path forward.”

“We’ll let you know if it’s going to be with that individual or a different plan,” Sanders said.

The rebuff of Garrett was the latest in a series of rejections and withdrawals of Trump administration nominees deemed to be too inexperienced or considered to have extreme anti-LGBT views.

David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign’s government affairs director, said in a statement the fight against Trump’s unqualified nominees will continue.

“This administration has demonstrated a deeply concerning track record of nominating unqualified people with a history of anti-LGBTQ views and actions,” Stacy said. “The American people made clear they do not want nominees with anti-LGBTQ views appointed to crucial positions of power. It is not only a moral failing but is proving to be a political non-starter.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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