Published opinion: Trump's pick for bank leader is bad for Texas by Tony Bennett and Chris Wallace
One of the cornerstones of Donald Trump's campaign for president was a promise to boost American manufacturing and work with U.S. businesses on "Made in America" jobs. When he was elected, President Trump cemented that commitment by meeting with top manufacturing CEOs to develop a pro jobs-agenda and visiting workers at iconic American manufacturers.
In April, the president took another step in support of U.S. manufacturers by announcing his support for the U.S. Export-Import Bank. President Trump knows a good deal when he sees one - the Ex-Im Bank levels the playing field for American exports while generating a profit for U.S. taxpayers - so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he would come down in favor of a fully-functioning bank.
But what has been surprising is his decision to nominate former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett as president of the bank.
The Ex-Im Bank is a lynchpin of U.S. manufacturing and an engine driving growth in American jobs. It helps U.S. businesses sell their products overseas, offering insurance, credit, and vital "know how" to help them crack foreign markets, while serving as a "lender of last resort" to finance U.S. export deals when no other source of financing is available.
This work has supported 1.4 million American jobs in the past eight years with $186 billion in total export value just last year. In Texas, the nation's top exporting state for 14 years running, the bank has provided competitive financing in support of $22 billion in exports over the past five years, with small businesses making up half of participating exporters. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the value of these export sales creates or sustains 132,000 U.S. jobs. For a state like Texas where manufacturing accounts for more than 14 percent of the state economy and 848,000 local jobs, this boost to exports is vital.
Yet inexplicably, former Congressman Garrett strongly opposes the Ex-Im Bank. He has voted more than a dozen times to shut it down and argued that the bank's support for American manufacturers and small businesses is not necessary.
In reality, Ex-Im is a small agency with just 400 staff members that actually runs a surplus - returning the fees and interest it charges for its services to the public Treasury, nearly $4 billion since 2009.
Congress has made its views clear with repeated, bipartisan votes in support of the U.S. Ex-Im Bank - one of the few areas it seems Republicans and Democrats can agree on these days. Certainly, Trump should have the freedom to nominate a skeptic who plans to further reform or strictly manage the bank. Even if we disagreed with such a nominee on some of the particulars - the bank, after all is one of the most efficient, well-managed agencies in the federal government today - we would support him or her in keeping with the president's traditional prerogatives on personnel.
But we cannot support a nominee who is flatly opposed to the existence of the bank - one who would destroy the Texas jobs the bank helps create and unilaterally disarm American businesses on the global stage out of misguided ideology. Nor can we understand why someone who has a track record of voting against the bank's reauthorization and who has said that "Congress should put the Export-Import Bank out of businesses" would want to lead this agency.
Putting such a committed opponent of the bank in charge of its operations will only yield more of the dysfunction and gridlock that the American people rejected when they voted to change business as usual in Washington by electing Trump.
American manufacturers and their U.S. suppliers need a committed leader at the helm of the Export-Import Bank - someone who will support their ability to compete against more than 90 foreign export credit agencies around the world. For that reason, we believe the best path forward in fulfilling the president's support for Ex-Im, as well as the bank's mission of supporting American jobs and competitiveness - is with the withdrawal of Scott Garrett's nomination.
Bennett is president & CEO of Texas Association of Manufacturers, and Wallace is president, Texas Association of Business.
This opinion originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.