Long-in-Limbo Ex-Im Bank Welcomes Trump’s Sudden Support

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., had blocked consideration of all Obama's nominees to the bank. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., had blocked consideration of all Obama's nominees to the bank. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

Long criticized by Republicans as an agency dispensing “corporate welfare,” the Export-Import Bank on Thursday got some good news after two senators reported that President Trump is abandoning his campaign-trail position that the bank must die.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., announced that Trump “agreed with her on the need to get the Export-Import Bank up and running and said he will soon nominate someone to serve on the Export-Import Bank Board.”

The five-member board has been below quorum for a year because former Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., had blocked consideration of all of President Obama’s nominees to the bank. (Shelby has since been replaced by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.) That prevented the agency from lending on projects of more than $10 million.

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Trump told Heitkamp he had thought the bank was a bad idea because many Republicans had criticized it, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. But Trump reportedly changed his mind after speaking with the CEO of Boeing Co.

“The news of yesterday’s meeting with the President and Senators Heitkamp and [Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.] is encouraging, and we look forward to continuing our work with the administration to bring EX-IM back to full functionality to support U.S. jobs,”  said Caroline Scullin, senior vice president of communications at the bank, said in a statement to Government Executive.

“To support the economy and boost American manufacturing jobs, enabling the Ex-Im Bank to work is a critical step,” Heitkamp said. “Right now, the lack of a majority on the Ex-Im Bank Board is halting in excess of $30 billion worth of deals waiting in the pipeline from being approved,” costing the country almost 174,000 jobs.

The 80-year-old Export-Import Bank of the United States—which seeks to boost U.S. exports by lending to foreign entities in such industries as aircraft and highway-building--was last authorized in December 2015 for four years. At that time, bank President and CEO Fred Hochberg launched a new ethics office.

Currently, its five-member board is vacant (two additional ex-officio posts go to the Commerce secretary and the U.S. Trade Representative, nominations for which have not been confirmed). The acting chairman, president, vice president and CEO is Charles Hall, a three-year veteran at the bank. The acting first vice president, vice chairman, senior vice president and chief of staff is Scott Schloegel, who has five years with the bank.

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