Rep. Garret Graves: The Low-Key GOP Broker in Debt Ceiling Talks
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has turned to Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., for an even tougher assignment than helping him lock up the votes to be elected speaker: brokering a deal to avoid a historic default on the country’s credit limit. Despite not being a top elected leader or committee chairman, Graves’ low-key demeanor and expertise on energy policy landed him a seat across from the president’s top aides in the debt ceiling talks.
South Dakota GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson recently summed up Graves’ approach in a House GOP conference that is full of lawmakers with national nicknames who make the rounds on cable news and have large social media followings: “Garret Graves is anonymous to everyday Americans, and that’s exactly the way he wants it.”
Over days of talks, Graves fields questions from a growing pack of reporters covering the various negotiating sessions. On Tuesday he was blunt: “I’m telling you that we still have substantial distance between us and them on the numbers right now,” referring to the gulf between the House Republicans and the White House negotiators.
Graves’ Role Brokering GOP Bills Among ‘5 Families’
The Louisiana Republican played a critical role for McCarthy during the drawn-out fight for the speakership in January, which put him in the middle of a bloc of members who were issuing demands. Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., who heads a group of fiscal conservatives that includes Graves, says it was good practice for what was to come.
“You have to appoint people that can sit there and grind this out,” Hern said of the debt limit negotiations. “And that’s what Garrett’s been charged with doing since, you know, back in January, actually, before there was a debt limit issue. He worked on the speaker getting his vote. So he’s obviously won the confidence of the speaker to go out and talk with us.”
Graves’ ability to tamp down the drama during the speakership fight caused McCarthy to give him a new post at the leadership table. He coordinates strategy with the 5 House GOP factions — dubbed the “5 families,” a reference drawn from the “Godfather” movie about feuding mob families.
Graves’ Deep Knowledge on Energy Projects
Before he was elected to the House in 2014, Graves chaired a state coastal board in Louisiana overseeing construction of levees and negotiating permits for land restoration. In 2010, Graves was a trustee on the Deep Water Horizon settlement for its gulf oil spill — the largest in U.S. history.
Ohio Republican David Joyce leads another one of those families — the Republican Governance Group — a group of moderates. He says Graves has been briefing him when they run into each other at the gym about the talks. Like others, the first thing he mentions is Graves’ sense of humor. He said he has a reputation for playing practical jokes and recounted one that played out during a congressional hearing.
“Rodney Davis [a former House member from Illinois], one time at a hearing — [Graves] set up an iPad and the level behind him and above him with an arrow that said ‘doofus’ — poor Rodney’s making his point and everybody sees doofus. They don’t hear a word he’s saying!”
Graves’ Good Relationships Across the Aisle
Graves has built some good relationships across the aisle. Shalanda Young — the White House budget director and lead negotiator on the debt — is from his south Louisiana district and they’ve previously collaborated to approve money for infrastructure projects there. Vermont Democratic Senator Peter Welch served 8 terms in the House and heaped on praise.
“Garrett is a very effective and skillful person. He’s got a great temperament, very smart,” he said. “So the fact that Kevin [McCarthy]’s got him involved is an indication of how much respect the speaker has for him.”
The Right Guy at the Right Time
If Graves can help broker a deal, he’ll likely be called on to help sell it to his party — but Johnson says he’s not looking for credit.
“Many members of Congress are desperate to want you to believe that they’re the smartest person in the room — that is not Garret Graves,” he said. “For him, it’s about the country. For him, it’s about the deal. It is not about getting one more list of accolades on Garret Graves — his obituary. He’s the right guy at the right time.”
However, with a tricky path to get a deal to the president’s desk before the country defaults, Graves could also be blamed if things go sideways.
- Garret Graves
- GOP negotiator
- Debt ceiling talks
- Republican leadership
- Congressional budget negotiations
News Source : Deirdre Walsh,Barbara Sprunt
Source Link :Who is Garret Graves, the top GOP negotiator in debt ceiling talks? : NPR/