N.J. critic of Export-Import Bank appointed to overhaul federal credit agency

 Former Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, attends a 2014 hearing about the international financial system on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo, File)

Former Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, attends a 2014 hearing about the international financial system on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo, File)

Republicans who want to disband the Export-Import Bank of the United States were heartened during the presidential campaign when candidate Donald Trump indicated he would kill it if he were elected president.

Now, President Trump said he supports the bank and the micro-financing it gives U.S. companies.

Republican Ryan Costello and other lawmakers from the Delaware Valley are in that corner as well.

“I’d like to see the Export-Import Bank function. It is a job creator in my district. It helps a lot of downstream providers, particularly a company like Boeing,” said Congressman Costello, who represents parts of four counties west of Philadelphia.

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“Boeing’s not too far from my district, but there are a lot of folks in the heart of my district that are small manufacturers — 20, 40, 50, 100 jobs — that, without Boeing, they’re not in existence,” he said.

That’s why Costello is perplexed the president tapped former U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett to serve on the  bank’s board.

“I don’t know what to make of that.  That was an interesting one,” Costello says

Garrett, a founding member of the very conservative House Freedom Caucus, has long been a critic of the bank — even voting against its reauthorization. Back in a 2015 House floor speech, Garrett lashed out at the bank.

“You see 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,” he said then. “And it mocks the American dream by making victims of the startups that dare to compete.”

The official export credit agency of the U.S., the bank is an independent, self-sustaining executive branch agency with a mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating the export of U.S. goods and services.

Now Garrett will be tasked with helping to overhaul the bank. New Jersey Republican U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance said Garrett’s the right person for the job.

“I support Congressman Garrett’s nomination. I’ve known Scott for more than 25 years. We served together for a decade in the New Jersey Legislature, and we’ve served together in more recent times here [in Congress],” said Lance. “And I think he’s a man of ability and honesty.”

Lance, who said he supports the bank, said he’d like to see changes.

“I want to make sure that it supports small business in this country, as well as large business,” he said.

As far as Garrett’s previous opposition to the bank, Lance said, it’s actually an asset.

“I think a healthy skepticism is always appropriate in our government,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the entity cannot continue to exist, but we have to make sure that reforms are in place.”

Garrett also has the support of U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, a South Jersey Republican.

“Scott’s a very smart guy, and I think he’ll get in there, he’ll reform it, and he’ll figure out how to make it effective for loaning money to our companies,” MacArthur said

Democrats see things differently. Democrat Brendan Boyle, a Philadelphia congressman, said he fears Garrett and Trump are trying to undermine the bank from within.

“It is a concern, especially because he’s historically been someone who has not only been opposed to it, but very much in the sort of Tea Party conservative side,” Boyle said of Garrett.

Boyle said it’s difficult to discern whether Trump is being devious or if he just doled out a favor to a loyalist who recently lost a bid for re-election.

“It could just be that there’s no forethought in this whatsoever,” Boyle said.

Still, he said, Garrett’s nomination is a part of a troubling trend on Trump administration nominees.

“As far as the Trump administration’s philosophy in its appointments — it’s very hard to figure out. They appoint someone to head the EPA who has sued the EPA repeatedly and doesn’t believe in the science of climate change, which makes us a laughingstock to countries all around the world,” Boyle said.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Garrett will have four years to reform or kill the export import bank that’s he’s been itching to get rid of for years.

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