President Donald Trump has nominated two former congressmen to serve on the board of directors of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, one of them a past opponent of the export credit agency. Their addition would restore a quorum the board has lacked, preventing it from approving transactions larger than $10 million.
Trump has nominated Scott Garrett, formerly a Republican U.S. representative from New Jersey, and Spencer Bachus, who represented Alabama as a Republican member of Congress until his retirement in 2015, to serve terms on the Ex-Im board, the White House announced on April 14. The Senate must confirm them.
Garrett, whom Trump proposes to serve a four-year term as the board’s president, voted against reauthorizing the bank in 2012 and again in 2015, according to a congressional scorecard compiled by The New American, a John Birch Society publication. In a widely quoted tweet in October 2015, Garrett derided “the corporate welfare program known as the Ex-Im Bank,” adding the hashtag “CronyCapitalism.” Garrett entered the House of Representatives in 2003; he was defeated in a re-election bid last year by Democrat Josh Gottheimer.
The Ex-Im Bank provides loan guarantees and other financing support to foreign buyers of U.S. products, including widebody airliners manufactured by Boeing, in the past its biggest beneficiary. Trump himself criticized the bank during his campaign for the presidency, but recently changed his position.
Congress allowed the bank’s operating charter to lapse in the summer of 2015. A highway and mass transit bill the Congress passed in December that year reauthorized the agency after a hiatus of more than five months, but it still lacked a quorum of directors. Former President Barack Obama nominated two new members to serve on the board, but they remained unconfirmed when the previous Congress ended.
The bank currently lists two board members—Charles Hall, acting chairman and president; and Scott Schloegel, acting first vice president and vice chairman—along with three vacancies. There are two ex-officio board members who do not vote: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the U.S. Trade Representative. Trump’s nominee for the latter position, trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer, is awaiting Senate confirmation..
The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), whose current board chairman is Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, has led a public campaign to support the Ex-Im Bank, and described the latest White House announcement as “a crucial next step to restoring a quorum” on the agency’s board. The association contends the bank currently has a backlog of 40 transactions worth more than $30 billion that it cannot process due to the lack of a quorum. A nonprofit organization called the American Policy Coalition has run advertisements using the same figure.
In a press release, the AIA also defended against critics’ assertions that the bank primarily benefits large corporations. “It doesn’t provide an advantage to our companies—rather it offsets the advantage that our foreign competitors have with export financing from 60 foreign government-backed export credit agencies,” the association said. “Ex-Im Bank support is critical for U.S. exporters in the aerospace and defense industry—both large companies and their small and medium suppliers. With a level playing field, we can compete and win based on the quality of our products and services rather than financing.”