President Donald Trump said Friday he will nominate a sceptic of the US Export-Import Bank to run the institution, which has been operating under strict lending limits because of a partisan battle over its mission.
Trump, who as a candidate said he didn’t think the bank needed to exist, named former New Jersey Representative Scott Garrett, one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street donations among House members, to be the bank’s chairman and president. He tapped former Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus for a seat on the bank’s board of directors. Both positions require Senate confirmation.
Trump hinted at his reversal in media interviews last week, signalling a shift from his position on the campaign trail. In 2015, he told Bloomberg that the bank’s role amounted to “featherbedding” for some politicians and companies.
Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg is said to have been particularly influential in changing the president’s view of the agency. Boeing is by far the largest exporter beneficiary of the bank, to the tune of several billion dollars annually, followed by General Electric Co.
Small-government conservatives shut down the bank in 2015 by blocking its reauthorization. While the bank was revived, its five-member board has lacked a quorum, which restricted it from granting loans of more than $10 million. Former President Barack Obama’s late-term nominees were blocked by Senate Republicans, including Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.
In Garrett, Trump has once again chosen a critic of a government agency to run it.
“The Export-Import Bank’s long legacy of crony capitalism has hurt the livelihoods and businesses of many Americans who don’t get special treatment from this misguided government program,” Garrett said in a 2015 statement. Conservative groups including Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity oppose the bank for similar reasons.
Garrett lost re-election last year after seven terms in Congress when he lost the backing of major Wall Street donors after a report that he’d told fellow Republican lawmakers he wouldn’t give money to the party’s congressional campaign arm because it supported openly gay candidates.
Bachus, a former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has previously backed the Ex-Im Bank, sponsoring a 2012 law that reauthorised the bank.
Backers of bank say that most of its lending supports small and medium-sized businesses.
In fiscal 2014, the bank’s last fully operation year, it backed $27.5 billion in exports “- somewhat less than 2 per cent of the US total. This financing supported 164,000 American jobs that year, according to the bank, and about 90 per cent of the bank’s deals helped small businesses.
The US Chamber of Commerce has pushed for the bank’s lending powers to be fully restored, saying that without it jobs might be lost to competitors in China or Russia.