Trump picks critic of Ex-Im Bank to lead it
President Donald Trump on Friday announced his intent to nominate former Rep. Scott Garrett, a Republican from New Jersey, for president of the Export-Import Bank.
While in Congress, Garrett voted against reauthorizing the bank and said that it “embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.”
If confirmed, Garrett would serve a four-year term at the helm of the bank, which aims to make U.S. exports more competitive around the world by lending money to foreign buyers.
Trump is also nominating another former lawmaker to the bank: Spencer Bachus of Alabama, who once led the financial services panel. Bachus, who served on Capitol Hill from 1993 to 2014 and supported the bank’s reauthorization.
Trump opposed the Ex-Im Bank on the campaign trail, but he did an about-face this week, saying he now supports it.
“Instinctively, you would say, ‘Isn’t that a ridiculous thing,’ ” the president told The Wall Street Journal. “But actually, it’s a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money.”
Conservative groups including Club for Growth, Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity have long opposed the bank, saying it promotes crony capitalism.
Garrett faced a tough reelection battle last year and ended up losing his seat, despite strong support from conservative outside groups like Club for Growth. During the two-year election cycle, his top contributors were individuals who worked at Club for Growth, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Garrett served in Congress from 2003 to 2016 and served on both the House Budget Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. He railed against the bank during a floor speech in October 2015, when Congress let the bank’s charter expire after GOP infighting about whether it should be reauthorized.
“We have the opportunity to save capitalism from cronyism. … We have the opportunity to keep the export-import bank out of business, and we should take those opportunities,” Garrett said in opposition a measure to revive the bank.
“The Export-Import Bank transformed the role of government from a disinterested referee in the economy into a biased actor that uses your taxpayer dollars to tilt the scales in favor of its friends.”
Conservatives in Congress ultimately won a temporary shutdown of Ex-Im that lasted for nearly six months.
The charter was reauthorized in December of 2015 after a group of House Democrats and Republicans teamed up to employ a rarely used procedural move that let the bank lend again.
But the board has remained understaffed and the Republican-led Senate refused to consider President Obama’s nominees.
The bank’s board has been short the three people needed for the five-member board to approve deals worth more than $10 million.
With a board shortage, the 82-year-old agency authorized only $5 billion in financing in fiscal 2016, the lowest level in nearly 40 years, compared with $20 billion in 2014, the last year the bank was fully operational.
There is about $30 billion worth of deals stuck in the pipeline that could be completed with a quorum.
Congressional supporters of the bank failed last year to revive the higher lending limit.
Large companies including Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar generally benefit most from the bank’s financing.