Apr 29, 2019

Top Republican taps former Trump aide, energy exec for climate committee

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

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Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 min ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins