President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Export-Import Bank, former Republican Rep. Scott Garrett, has generated bipartisan criticism, making his confirmation far from a certainty, The New York Times reported Monday.
Garrett, a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus who lost his House seat in New Jersey in the last elections, has been nominated as chairman of the bank's board. He nas been a staunch advocate of closing down the bank, saying it "embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system."
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had also criticized the bank, which provides loan guarantees to U.S. firms selling to foreign customers. It has for years been targeted by Republicans as a tool of corporate cronyism and a meddler in free markets.
Trump, however, reversed his position, apparently concluding that it helps small businesses by providing a way for American exporters to compete more effectively worldwide.
Due to GOP efforts to derail the bank, it has done little business recently, authorizing only $5 billion last year, which was a quarter of what it did in 2014 and the smallest amount in four decades.
The nominee for another seat on the board, moderate former Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, is less controversial.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat who has been one of the bank's most vocal supporters, said Trump's move to fill vacancies on the board was a "positive step," but expressed reservations the nominees, CNBC reported.
Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer used stronger language in referring to Garrett, saying Trump has selected a nominee to lead an agency that individual believes should not exist and has tried to destroy. If former Rep. Garrett is confirmed to lead the ban, it would be the ultimate act of sabotage." CNBC reported.
Some Republicans agreed with that sentiment. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a supporter of the bank, said, "You can want to reform the bank, that's OK, [but] if you're going to try to be a Trojan horse, try to shut down the bank, you probably won't get confirmed. … I just don't want somebody who doesn't believe in it being chairman of it," according to NorthJersey.com
And Republicans who prefer that the bank no longer exist appeared to take a different position, with Sen. Patrick Toomey telling The Times: "For someone who would rather see it all closed down, Scott Garrett is the best guy we could have."
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo said that no hearings have been scheduled on Garrett, because a background check and financial disclosure have not yet been received, NorthJersey.com reported.
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