WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump has formally nominated former members of Congress, Scott Garrett and Spencer Bachus, to two vacant positions on the U.S. Export-Import bank as expected, a win for the defense and aerospace sector.
Trump announced the move in April — a reversal after calling the federal government's export credit agency "excess baggage" in 2015. Though the Heritage Foundation and some free-market conservatives have criticized the Ex-Im Bank as subsidizing foreign competitors of U.S. firms, the Aerospace Industries Association, or AIA, touted it as vital to small- and medium-size companies.
Among the largest export beneficiaries of the bank's financial assistance have been Boeing and General Electric, which have overseas customers that use the agencies' government-backed loans to buy their products. CNBC reported that Trump's about-face came after meeting with former Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, who oversaw the corporation's lobbying effort on the bank's behalf after leaving Boeing.
The White House sent the names to the Senate on Monday, where they would have to be approved by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee before getting a full Senate confirmation vote. The two names were among 11 the administration sent to the Senate.
Some Senate opponents have tried to weaken the bank by blocking nominees to its board. Those vacant seats have meant the bank has not been able to approve transactions of more than $10 million.
Garrett would fill the role of Ex-Im president for a four-year term. In the past, CNN reported, Garrett was openly critical of the Ex-Im Bank, tweeting in 2015: "I opposed the House's vote to reauthorize the corporate welfare program known as the Ex-Im Bank. #CronyCapitalism."
Garrett served as a New Jersey Republican congressman from 2003 to 2015. He was one of the nine founding members of the House Freedom Caucus.
Bachus would be a member of the Ex-Im Bank's board of directors. Bachus served in Congress from 1993 to 2015 representing Alabama and at one point, was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. He supported the bank's re-authorization, once saying the Ex-Im Bank "is available to help those small businesses compete and win in the global marketplace."
In 2015, AIA CEO David Melcher and former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre argued in a Defense News op-ed that the bank is vital to American national security interests.
"American aerospace and defense companies have relied on overseas markets, particularly commercial markets serviced by Ex-Im loans, to keep the defense industrial base healthy as U.S. defense spending has declined," the said, "Without Ex-Im, U.S. industrial production will decline, reducing revenue and jobs throughout the aerospace and defense supply chain, leading to higher unit costs for the military systems our armed forces buy."
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.