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Politics & Policy

The Cronies Vote Down Scott Garett’s Ex-Im Bank Appointment

The Senate Banking Committee rejected President Trump’s nominee to head the Export-Import Bank, former representative Scott Garrett. Among the votes against were two Republican senators (Rounds and Scott), who supported those who believe that it is the role of the federal government to subsidize big companies such as Boeing and GE.

That’s disappointing, because Garrett would have restored some accountability and transparency at the Bank while making sure that companies in countries that weren’t allowed to be sponsored by U.S. taxpayers (think about Boeing selling planes to Iran) weren’t getting Ex-Im loans. Make no mistake, a vote against Garrett signals the power of special interests, lobbyists, and the swamp over politicians, both Republicans and Democrats.

Restoring the full lending authority of the bank is shameful. As a reminder, when Ex-Im was operating fully — before July 1, 2015 — 65 percent of all its activities benefited just ten large companies and 86 percent of the deals were worth over $10 million. The Bank hasn’t been able to back deals larger than $10 million since then, and yet, the sky is still way high above our heads, the dystopian world promised by the supporters of Ex-Im during the 2015 fight over the Bank never materialized, the economy is growing, and Boeing is flourishing. When are we going to hold accountable those who spent their time scaring the American people by telling them that things would be horrible if the Ex-Im Bank didn’t continue business as usual? Apparently, never.

Don’t get me wrong: With Garrett at the head of Ex-Im, things would have still returned to their normal level of redistribution from the non-subsidized businesses to the subsidized ones. But at least, there was a chance of accountability and restructuring to make the crony agency less distortive and less unfair.

I assume that those who voted ‘No’ are hoping that they will get someone more flexible now that Garrett is out of the way.

They may be wrong. First, Senators Toomey and Shelby, two true believers in the idea of draining the swamp, won’t let them win so easily. According to Politico:

The administration has warned for months that if Garrett failed to advance then GOP lawmakers critical of the bank would hold up the confirmation of other nominees to head the agency. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have threatened to derail other Ex-Im appointees if Garrett were not cleared.

Then, there is the matter of getting another nominee do better outside of the committee:

In an interview Friday, White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short declined to say what the administration would do if Garrett fell short of the necessary votes in committee.

“There are some who look at it myopically and will say, ‘Here’s your challenge in committee,’” Short said. “But I think focusing on the committee in and of itself doesn’t factor in other members of Congress who will oppose a different nominee.”

Better yet, President Trump could show that he meant what he said about wanting to drain the swamp by not nominating anyone else for the job. Even better, he should withdraw his other candidates for the Ex-Im Bank in order to stand by Scott Garrett. Seriously, this would show the town that the swamp can’t always win.

I am disappointed to see that so many Republicans support cronyism. The worst part is that I fear they know better but would rather serve their narrow political interests than fight for the principles of a free market.

And what about the Democrats? They are always fast to rail against big corporations. Well, what would result in more unfair government subsidies to the big and wealthy than the restoration of the Ex-Im Bank? But here they are wholeheartedly supporting corporate welfare for big companies.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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