The Export-Import Bank under Barack Obama and George W. Bush dedicated about 80 percent of its financing to a few big exporters, with half of that subsidizing Boeing sales. Big banks love Ex-Im's guarantees, which they call "free money."
The Trump administration has called for reforming the agency by reducing its extreme tilt towards big business. Trump, in that spirit, nominated a critic of the agency, former Rep. Scott Garrett, as President of Ex-Im. A man who opposed Ex-Im as a lawmaker is the perfect man to reform Ex-Im as an executive. He's an outsider and sees the agency's flaws, but, by accepting the nomination, has come to terms with the fact that Congress has concluded Ex-Im should continue to exist.
But on Tuesday morning, the Senate Banking Committee voted down Garrett's nomination.
Every Democrat voted against Garrett. That's not surprising — all of Ex-Im's biggest beneficiaries opposed Garrett, who is a conservative. Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are very much on board with corporatism — the idea that Big Business and Big Government should collaborate to steer the economy more "rationally" than the crazy free-market.
The two Republicans to vote against Garrett were telling.
Mike Rounds comes from South Dakota, corporate home of Citibank. Citigroup is his top donor. Citigroup executives have sung the praises of the government guarantees Ex-Im gives them. "Free money," they call it.
Tim Scott comes from South Carolina, and has long had close ties to Boeing, a major donor of his.
Take a unanimously corporatist Democratic party, a Citibank-friendly Republican, and a Boeing-friendly Republican, and down goes Trump's nominee.
So, what's next, if Garrett's done?
Trump should nominate a Republican who is very familiar with Ex-Im's operations. One such Republican happens to be retiring from Congress: Rep. Jeb Hensarling.