Industry From the Hill: Politics & Risk the May 2023 issue

Working the Aisle

Q&A with Mike Carey, R-Ohio and member of U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.
By Joel Wood Posted on April 30, 2023
Tell me how your years of lobbying and shoe leather on Capitol Hill and in the state has helped you as a member.

I started working on the Hill back in 1995. I spent three years here prior and before that worked in our state Senate back in Ohio. And then after I got out of that, I went into the association world and into the private sector as well. I ultimately ended my career as the vice president for one of the nation’s largest private energy companies. So I knew many of the people in Congress. I spent a lot of time walking these halls and articulating on behalf of American energy producers, so when the opportunity came… Obviously, staff time is important, because you understand the needs of the people that are around you. We’ve put together a very good team.

Early on, we identified that we wanted to go for the Ways and Means Committee, knowing that it was a moonshot to try to do it under a year. But my chief of staff and I used to work on the hill together back in the ’90s. So we put together a very good, if you want to say, lobby. We lobbied the steering committee pretty heavily. The fact that they had so many folks that had left that committee and that a lot of the people had left that committee that understood energy—I knew all forms of energies. It didn’t matter whether it was renewables, whether it was fossil, whether it was nukes, whatever it was, and all the tax infrastructure associated with financing those projects. That’s something that we were missing on Ways and Means.

And Ohio historically always had two members. If you look back in the days of Pat Tiberi and Jim Renacci and prior to that, we always had two members. We were fortunate I got on, and I’ve just been very happy. We had a six-hour hearing yesterday—be careful what you wish for when you get to committee, I guess.

But I think we’ve got a great chairman. Jason’s doing remarkable things. He’s trying to do these field hearings, which I think are going to be essential. We did one in West Virginia, and we’ve got one next Tuesday in Oklahoma City. This is going to take us out to the real world where we can actually listen to people. One of the things that Jason wants to do is take us out to those communities where maybe they don’t have somebody representing them in D.C. and really hear from them how Ways and Means can fix their lives. I’m really, really excited to be part of his team.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over 100% of the revenues of the federal government and 60% of the expenditures through entitlement programs. We have a divided government, and there’s a razor thin Republican margin in the House of Representatives. What, realistically, do you aspire to achieve?

That’s a great question. That’s part of the reason for the field hearings: to go out and see what the American people are talking about and what they want us to be addressing. Leader McCarthy, as well as Chairman Smith, have made it very clear that we’re not going to touch Social Security or Medicare. But there are a lot of things that we need to do.

One part of the hearing that we had yesterday was about how we had a study in Ohio showing fraudulent spending of about a billion dollars in Ohio alone, and $450 million actually went to criminals. What we were trying to highlight yesterday through our bill and the legislation that we’re putting through was that we should be able to recoup some of those dollars.

As we’re looking at tightening the budget, we’ve seen the expense in going back to regular order, going back to making sure that we have 72 hours on bills and making sure that any bill that we have goes through the process. As you know, Ways and Means is broken up. We have 25 Republicans, and we have 18 Democrats. I know it got a little partisan about a year and a half, two years ago. But historically, Ways and Means—much like the House Admin Committee, which I’m also on—is a committee that really does work together and tries to find some common ground. My hope is we have some issues and bills that we can all agree on. Because when you look at our numbers, we need 218 to pass legislation—bottom line. We’re going to have to work across party lines; there’s no doubt about that.

Just a couple of final questions. First of all, you guys just had a two-week district work period. What were you doing during that district work period? And one question we’re going to ask everybody in these podcasts is what are the number one issues you’re hearing from your constituents?

We actually did a survey with our constituents. I forget what the size and scope of it was, but it was a massive survey. It’s been very consistent. The issue that people are concerned about really is the cost of goods. People realize they’re making in many cases the same dollar amount, but what they can do with that dollar is a lot less than it was just two and a half years ago. We’ve seen an uptick in the concern—it depends on where you’re going in the district, but it actually crosses the entire divide—in the fentanyl crisis that we have in our country, with the overdoses. Everybody now is at least one or two people removed from somebody that they know that had an OD or had an experience with that. And it’s not OD; that’s the issue. It’s a poisoning. These kids today, they think they’re taking an Adderall. And next thing you know, unfortunately they’re a fatality, and it’s a poisoning.

I think the border is a very big issue. I don’t care whether you’re in Columbus, Ohio, or in Columbus, Georgia, or wherever, all points in between. What we’ve done with the border, allowing the Mexican cartels to just kind of dictate what’s going on…I’ve been to the border, I’ve seen it firsthand. Bringing the people illegally into the country but also the drugs—the cartels are making a billion dollars a month off of human trafficking.

My hope is that we’ll do a lot this Congress to address those issues. On the inflationary side of things, when you spend as much money as we’ve spent just in the matter of two and a half years, you’re going to have this inflationary reaction. So our hope is through the House we can push the Senate and then ultimately the president to get some agreement on stopping a lot of this frivolous spending.

We’ve got one final question that we always want to put out there. Who’s the member on the other side of the aisle that you work best with?

Joyce Beatty. She and I share Columbus, Ohio. Literally—you go outside my district office, and you walk a block, you’re in Joyce Beatty’s district. You go to her district office, which is downtown Columbus, and you walk a block, you’re here in my district. So Joyce and I have a very close working relationship.

But I’ll tell you, I think it’s the entire Ohio delegation. Shontel Brown and I were sworn in together. We were both part of that November 4 swearing in. We both won our specials on November 2of 2021. She and I have become very, very close. Emilia Sykes, Max Miller and I were the only two members of Congress that went to her swearing in in the district up in Akron, so you had two Republicans that actually went to the Democrat’s swearing in. Marcy [Kaptur] has been great. She and I do a lot of work on the Automotive Caucus together. And then Greg Landsman, who’s out of Cincinnati. He’s going to be in my office in about 10 minutes because we’re looking at doing some legislation again.

My point is, I think that there are a lot of Democrats, and we’re not always going to agree on the issues. Bottom line is, we can disagree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable. I think Joyce and I are committed to doing that. And that’s why we’re going do the Civility Caucus.

Whether that changes where we’re going to be on the big issues that we have I don’t know, but Joyce and I partnered on the CHIPS Act, which was very important to Central Ohio. She championed from the Democratic side, and Troy Balderson and myself obviously worked it on the Republican side. So there’s going to be times we can work together. But I think having just that friendship… I think that’s what people do.

Joel Wood Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, The Council Read More

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