Last year, when asked what criteria he would use as he staffed his administration, then-candidate Donald Trump said, “Track record. Great competence. Love of what they are doing. How they are getting along with people. References. I mean no different from when you are running a company how you hire top people it would be no different.” That was a good answer.Since he took office in January, President Trump has largely lived up to this promise. We see his administration taking shape as he brings high-level and capable outsiders in to clean up the mess and drain the swamp that is Washington. We see fresh faces and new ideas from those brought into public service by President Trump. They are restoring free market principles to government and tearing down old policies that hampered our economy. This evidence that Trump is keeping promises made.
But while the President is to be applauded for the vast majority of his appointments, one stands out as highly questionable. The appointment of former Congressman Scott Garrett to lead the U.S. Export-Import Bank fails to live up to the criteria President Trump laid out.
For those who have never heard of the Export-Import Bank – or “Ex-Im” as it is often called – it is a small agency that helps American manufacturers sell goods overseas by offering competitive insurance and other financial products. Since Ex-Im is barred from competing with the private sector, it only steps in when no commercial alternatives are available.
For over 80 years, Ex-Im has been quietly helping boost manufacturing jobs in every corner of the United States and is critical to President Trump’s plans to bring factory jobs back to America. All the while, the bank has simultaneously returned nearly $4 billion to the U.S. Treasury and American taxpayers since 2009 through user fees and interest.
But increasingly the American manufacturers who understand best what is needed to bring factory jobs back to our shores are rightfully questioning Garrett’s appointment. They see Garrett as a creature of the swamp rather than someone who can drain it and ensure Ex-Im efficiently lives up to its mandate.
During Garrett’s 26 years in politics, he stood out as one of Ex-Im’s leading opponents. While he never really articulated a concrete reason why he was against the Bank, he voted to kill Ex-Im 19 different times. Thankfully, these efforts failed, but what does it say about his track record that he lost each time? And how can he love what he is doing, when that task is leading the agency he tried over and over to kill?
He attacked American manufacturers when they tried to explain the need for Ex-Im. This history led Garrett’s hometown paper to call him an “arsonist seeking to destroy the institution [he is] duty-bound to serve” in an editorial titled “Scott Garrett is back to settle an old score.”
Some may argue Ex-Im should be phased out, but as I’ve written many times before, that day is not now and that day cannot come until we have robust trade agreements that ensure that American manufacturers do not have to compete with foreign governments. American products are the best in the world. But foreign governments often tip the scales in favor of their own companies. This is where Ex-Im can force the scales back toward fairness without imposing costs on the American taxpayer. For the foreseeable future, Ex-Im is needed to help America manufacturers have a fair competition in the international marketplace.
Evidently Garrett isn’t that popular among his colleagues in Congress. Maybe that is because he refused to pay his dues to help Republicans win swing districts and secure the Republican majority in Congress. Or maybe it is because he was calling upon then-nominee Donald Trump to step aside only a month before the general election. When looking at references, Garrett can’t cite his former colleagues in Congress, the American manufacturers that President Trump is working with to create American jobs, or his former constituents who voted him out of office in a district that President Trump won.
Simply put, Garrett has struck out on each of the criteria President Trump laid out. On top of that failure, Garrett was a leading “Never-Trumper” during the campaign. In fact, Garrett “Took to the podium to bash President Trump” in the words of conservative journalist Mike Cernovich.
Rather than get bogged down by this distraction, the White House needs to withdraw Scott Garrett’s nomination to lead the Ex-Im Bank. President Trump should appoint someone who can insure the Ex-Im Bank lives up to its promise and helps make American manufacturing great again.
George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom — a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.