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Rep. Garret Graves. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), ranking member on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, is tapping 2 veteran energy and climate officials to lead the GOP's work on the newly established panel, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: George David Banks, President Trump’s former international energy and climate adviser, will be chief strategist for Graves. Martin Hall, most recently a senior official at the trade group Business Roundtable and former executive with utility FirstEnergy Corp., will be staff director.

Graves is expected to announce the news imminently. A request to his office wasn't immediately returned.

The big picture: With control of the House, Democrats are seeking to put climate back on the front burner, with the new select committee expected to play a large role. The Green New Deal, pushed by high-profile Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), is compelling Republicans to acknowledge the issue more while also exposing divisions among Democrats about how aggressive a climate agenda should be.

Background: Banks and Hall both worked on climate and energy issues in the George W. Bush administration.

  • Since resigning from the White House in February 2018 over reports of past marijuana use, Banks has worn a variety of hats, including at the conservative think tank American Council on Capital Formation and a campaign aiming to limit the influence of big investment funds on shareholder activism issues (especially climate change).
  • Hall was most recently a senior vice president at the Business Roundtable, having joined that group in 2017 after nearly 10 years at FirstEnergy.

Between the lines: These appointments suggest a genuine effort by Graves to engage on the issue. Both men acknowledge climate change is an issue, while Banks was among the few administration officials who urged Trump to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement (to no avail).

But, but, but: The select committee is unlikely to be anything more than a messaging machine on both sides because it lacks subpoena or legislative power. Graves' work in this area is also unlikely to influence the broader Republican caucus, which remains mostly dismissive of climate change — at least publicly.

Go deeper: Washington's empty messaging fight over the Green New Deal

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.