Meet Kevin McCarthy’s new wingman

Kevin McCarthy has a new fixer: Garret Graves.

The fast-talking Republican from south Louisiana has jumped into the center of the House GOP’s biggest political dramas, from this week’s massive energy bill to his controversial earmarking policy to the party’s agreement on a debt-limitation strategy. And all of his steps have the central aim of making the speaker’s life a little easier.

To hear Graves narrate, he took on the role unexpectedly — all after deciding to walk on the mat for McCarthy during the chaotic battle for the Californian’s speaking position without being asked for help.

“I’ll watch it on TV,” Graves said of the January McCarthy election standoff, when he recalled thinking, “We look like idiots.” So he started doing both conservative holdouts and Elect GOP moderates who opposed the greatest demands of the right. The 51-year-old even grew a beard, which he refused to shave until McCarthy got his way.

And when McCarthy won, he appointed the self-proclaimed political “nerd” to his leadership team — a remarkably pivotal role considering Graves doesn’t chair a committee and hasn’t won a leadership election. Graves has embraced the identity of a jack-of-all-trades advisor, helping to mediate intra-party conflicts while expanding his influence in the House of Representatives.

This emerging profile of “assistant coach,” in McCarthy’s words, begs how Graves fits into an elected leadership team that includes Steve Scalise of Louisiana, McCarthy’s formal No. 2. But Graves said he was careful not to get in getting in the way – and also suggested that the gubernatorial election he was openly contemplating this year might not be the end of his statewide ambitions, declining to rule out a Senate bid in 2026.

“I’m very aware of the fact that all of these people were actually elected positions,” Graves said in an interview, citing Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (RN.Y .) He presented his role as “block and attack” and “plate spin” to give McCarthy some extra support.

“I think the intent here is to benefit the entire leadership team, the entire conference,” he added. “If that ever doesn’t happen. Of course I have to keep going.”

He has spent this week holding the House GOP together on what may be their biggest agenda win yet, a nearly 200-page energy bill spanning a decade of Republican energy ideas that passed Thursday, 225-204.

However, even this widely used package required a lot of hands-on work with only four voices left. Graves and other members of the leadership struggled to resolve intra-party squabbles, several of which involved coastal Republicans resistant to offshore drilling.

The permit push for the GOP’s energy project is a particular personal highlight for Graves, who has handled literally thousands of state-level permits—first as a teenager working for his parents’ small engineering firm, and later as head of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority . At the latter, he helped design a multibillion-dollar program to rebuild coastal seawalls damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“He’s settled into energy issues as head of the Coastal Authority,” said Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who Graves replaced in the House of Representatives and who he may eventually face in a statewide primary respect, and it gives him greater influence.”

While Scalise officially led the House GOP’s energy billing efforts, Graves has been a key contributor from the start, leading McCarthy’s task force on the issue last year. He sat down with senior staff to draft the details of the approvals section, a rare display of a legislature’s policy decisions. A senior GOP executive assistant described him as a “bonus chief of staff.” (Graves was himself a former longtime energy adviser and even attempted to attend Personnel Committee briefings when he entered Congress in 2015.)

But Graves’ identity in energy politics has another, politically charged dimension: He was elected as a rare Republican willing to challenge his party on climate change, as Donald Trump falsely derided it as a hoax.

And the Louisian’s message didn’t always suit his party. When McCarthy first picked Graves to lead the GOP’s pushback to the new Democrat climate body in 2019, some colleagues were skeptical.

“I don’t think when he was chosen [that] immediately he was everyone’s number one choice,” recalled Rep. Kelly Armstrong (RN.D.), who first met him on the podium. Armstrong now calls Graves “one of our most effective” members, period.

That’s a big reason other Republicans answered his calls in January, when Graves first stepped in to help McCarthy’s election math problem. He and a handful of other McCarthy allies began bringing the leadership and holdouts into the same room for real talks.

Centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) has called Graves “one of the unsung heroes” in the speakership struggle. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a Conservative advocate, said Graves was excellent at convincing both sides that there was common ground.

It doesn’t hurt that while Graves is sometimes seen as hard-edged, he also makes friends easily despite (or maybe because of) being a notorious prankster. “He’s the guy who makes life miserable for you, then he steps back and makes sure everyone’s taken care of,” said Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah).

The same players, from Graves to Roy, will soon play similar roles as the party figures out a viable strategy to solve the looming debt crisis. But for now, Graves is handling the House energy bill — which is DOA in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

During his eight-year tenure, he has found solace as sections of his party have embraced the message he shaped as a coastal Republican: a willingness to speak out about the catastrophic effects of a warming planet alongside calls for more US oil and gas production.

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus, which launched in 2021 with Graves as a charter member, commends his colleague’s “ability to explain these concepts in a way that helps Republicans deal with climate.” to familiarize”.

Graves is delighted to see others in the party parroting his clean energy language, including McCarthy: “I love that the Republican mainstream is now talking about cutting emissions.”

But Democrats who have worked with him say he pays lip service to the threat of climate change by not using his influence to drive solutions to GOP policy.

One who worked closely with him on the now-defunct climate committee said Graves is not interested in alienating an oil and gas industry that still dominates his coastal district, which is also vulnerable to sea-level rise from climate change.

“When the cameras aren’t rolling, I love Garret. When the cameras are rolling, he does what he has to do. But he’s a good person and someone I’ll have a beer with,” said Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.).

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who chaired the climate panel that McCarthy dissolved this year, said Graves underdelivered there.
“He’s a fierce defender of the oil and gas industry — he makes no bones about it,” she noted.

Graves dismissed this Democratic critique of him and the GOP’s energy bill, which was written to ease the production and export of oil and gas but also to streamline permit reviews that affect electric vehicles and renewable energy supplies.

And he did so with characteristic bluntness, calling the Democrats’ arguments “utter bullshit.”

“These people who are targeting oil and gas, these people haven’t been running companies and thinking about how to do that. Does that mean we’re getting rid of wind, sun and geothermal energy? No way. We need absolutely everything,” Graves said.

Source :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *