Trump stand­ing by em­bat­tled nom­i­nee for Ex-Im Bank.

White House dis­misses bank back­ers’ con­cerns

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Pres­i­dent Trump is stand­ing by former Rep. Scott Gar­rett, his pick to chair the Ex­port-Im­port Bank, and is pre­pared to brave protests from busi­ness groups and sen­a­tors who say the ex-con­gress­man won’t even com­mit to pro­tect­ing the agency he’s sup­posed to lead.

It’s Mr. Trump’s first foray into the thorny pol­i­tics sur­round­ing the bank known in Wash­ing­ton as ExIm, which has been in the line of fire for years. Con­ser­va­tives ar­gue that the bank is mar­ket-dis­tort­ing cor­po­rate wel­fare, and have come close to ax­ing Ex-Im on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

The bank has sur­vived, thanks to a coali­tion of some Repub­li­cans and many Democrats who say gov­ern­ment credit is the only way for some of the na­tion’s cor­po­ra­tions to get fi­nanc­ing to com­pete in a global econ­omy.

Bank back­ers in the Sen­ate fear Mr. Gar­rett’s nom­i­na­tion is an at­tempt to stran­gle the bank, par­tic­u­larly after what Democrats deemed a “bizarre” meet­ing with the nom­i­nee, who they said wouldn’t fully com­mit to the bank’s mis­sion or re­new­ing its char­ter in 2019.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is dis­miss­ing those com­plaints and sid­ing with con­ser­va­tive pres­sure groups who told Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mike Crapo that Mr. Gar­rett’s arch­con­ser­va­tive record makes him the right man to over­haul the ob­scure credit agency.

“The White House re­mains strongly be­hind Scott Gar­rett’s nom­i­na­tion,” said White House spokes­woman Natalie Strom. “As Club for Growth, Her­itage Ac­tion, Free­domWorks and oth­ers said in their let­ter to Chair­man Crapo ear­lier this week, the Ex-Im bank is in se­ri­ous need of re­form and Scott Gar­rett is the one to do it.”

Mr. Crapo, Idaho Repub­li­can, hasn’t weighed in on Mr. Gar­rett’s like­li­hood of suc­cess in the con­fir­ma­tion process, though he does plan to move the nom­i­na­tion through his com­mit­tee, a spokes­woman for the panel said.

A prod­uct of the New Deal, the bank pri­mar­ily pro­vides fi­nanc­ing for U.S. com­pa­nies look­ing to sell their goods over­seas when pri­vate fund­ing is not avail­able. Some as­sis­tance goes to small man­u­fac­tur­ers, but cor­po­rate gi­ants like Boe­ing and Gen­eral Elec­tric ab­sorb the ma­jor­ity of the bank’s fund­ing.

Con­ser­va­tives say it’s a model of “crony cap­i­tal­ism,” pick­ing win­ners and losers in the mar­ket­place.

“It turns the econ­omy into a bi­ased ac­tor that uses your tax­payer dol­lars to tilt the scales in fa­vor of its friends,” Mr. Gar­rett said in a 2015 speech on the House floor.

Com­ments like those prompted many Ex-Im sup­port­ers to cry foul when Mr. Trump de­cided in April to tap Mr. Gar­rett, who had ex­pressed in­ter­est in work­ing for the ad­min­is­tra­tion after los­ing his bid for an eighth House term to Demo­cratic Rep. Josh Got­theimer last year.

“We need a nom­i­nee who truly be­lieves in the mis­sion of the Bank and who wants to sup­port and de­fend an agency that has a more than 80 year his­tory sup­port­ing Amer­i­can jobs and busi­nesses,” Democrats said in a state­ment led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Un­der pres­sure, the bank has limped along in re­cent years.

Con­ser­va­tives suc­cess­fully pushed to al­low Ex-Im’s char­ter to lapse in 2015, but mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans and Democrats ral­lied to re­vive it.

Former Sen­ate Bank­ing Chair­man Richard Shelby, an Alabama Repub­li­can who chaired the com­mit­tee in the last Congress, then re­fused to move Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nees to the bank’s board, mak­ing it un­able to gain a quo­rum and ap­prove deals ex­ceed­ing $10 mil­lion.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Mr. Trump dis­missed Ex-Im as “feath­erbed­ding” for politi­cians and huge com­pa­nies that don’t need it. But as pres­i­dent, he said he be­came con­vinced the U.S. needs Ex-Im in or­der to match other coun­tries.

The about-face irked con­ser­va­tives who had been fight­ing for years to see the end of the loan pro­gram, but they see Mr. Gar­rett’s nom­i­na­tion as the next best thing to shut­ting the bank down. They ex­pect him to crack down on fraud and cor­rup­tion, and to sharpen the bank’s pri­or­i­ties.

“Open up the books, al­low [Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion] re­quests to go through. There are a lot of groups out there to learn more about what’s going on,” said Andy Roth, vice pres­i­dent for gov­ern­ment af­fairs for the Club for Growth.

Bank op­po­nents are urg­ing Mr. Crapo to de­fend Mr. Gar­rett, say­ing oth­er­wise Mr. Trump’s op­po­nents will have been given a veto over his de­ci­sions.

“It is be­yond au­da­cious that the re­cip­i­ents of the Bank’s sub­si­dies be­lieve that they, not the Pres­i­dent, can se­lect the per­son to run the very agency that will hand the good­ies out to them,” the groups said in their Aug. 7 let­ter.

Mr. Gar­rett was nom­i­nated as chair­man along­side former Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Repub­li­can, to serve as vice chair­man. Mr. Trump is sup­posed to name three more nom­i­nees to round out the five-mem­ber board.

Mr. Crapo would like to move all of the nom­i­nees at the same time but is ready to move with just the two nom­i­nees if the oth­ers don’t come soon.

Sen­ate Democrats want the board to at least have a quo­rum of three mem­bers, though the fight when sen­a­tors re­turn from Au­gust re­cess will be fo­cused on Mr. Gar­rett.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers is team­ing up with state-level branches to lean on crit­i­cal Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, such as Tim Scott of South Carolina, with ad cam­paigns that say Mr. Gar­rett’s con­fir­ma­tion would be a “ter­ri­ble trade deal” for America.

Mr. Scott, who has met with Mr. Gar­rett, laid down an ul­ti­ma­tum in a state­ment last week.

“My po­si­tion has not changed — in or­der to earn my vote for this po­si­tion, he needs to make a clear and pub­lic state­ment that he will not seek to dismantle the Bank and that he will sup­port its reau­tho­riza­tion,” he said. “Mr. Gar­rett will have that opportunity when he tes­ti­fies be­fore the Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee, where I will be ask­ing some di­rect and pointed ques­tions re­gard­ing the fu­ture of the Bank.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Former Rep. Scott Gar­rett, New Jersey Repub­li­can, is Pres­i­dent Trump’s pick to chair the Ex­port-Im­port Bank. How­ever, his 2015 com­ments on the House floor about Ex-Im are trou­bling to bank back­ers.

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