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Rep. Sam Graves (R-6) has always struck me as a typical 21st century Missouri GOP pol: for limited government except when he isn’t, opposes government handouts except for his friends, willing to toe the accepted rightwing rhetorical line no matter how absurd, and rarely if ever challenges party leadership. The archetypical “Fox” Republican, as he has been dubbed, he chairs the House Small Business Committee where he’s a predictable quantity, opposing what he terms “handouts,” taxes, and business regulation. As you might guess, he’s approved of by conservative groups like the Chamber of Commerce although spokesmen for more pragmatic business organizations have suggested that he “often puts ideology over the practical needs of small businesses,” as when he opposed the $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF).

My impression of Graves has been that in general while there’s lots to dislike, there’s little of real substance in the tired boiler-plate he dishes out – although he did hint at a proclivity toward the more exotic forms of GOP ideology back in 2002 when he took on some teenagers in Blue Springs, Missouri, gifting the city with a a $273,000 grant to fight “Goth culture.” Not surprisingly, at least half the amount was later returned “because of a lack of interest — and the absence of a real problem.”

All of which left me a little flummoxed when I read today that Graves has taken on the role of a GOP David and aimed his slingshot at the rightwing’s favorite Goliath, the EPA:

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would halt all EPA rules that are currently in the works and prompt a review of all previous EPA regulations. H.R. 5034, titled the Stop the EPA Act, would also require Congress to approve all previous and new regulations that cost $50 million or more. Under the bill, any that aren’t approved by Congress won’t become law.

“My legislation will give the American people a voice in the regulator’s room when the President and the EPA try and go around Congress,” Graves said in a statement. “EPA aggression has reached an all-time high, and now it must be stopped.”

Graves’ legislation was prompted by the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” proposal, which aims to clarify what streams and rivers are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, under the Clean Water Act. It’s also aimed at the EPA’s new rule on carbon emissions from power plants, a proposal that multiple other lawmakers have attempted to undermine or overturn in recent months. House Republicans introduced an EPA funding bill this week that would block the agency’s new power plant rule, and nine states have signed on to coal company Murray Energy’s lawsuit against the agency, claiming that the new rule constitutes EPA overreach.    

The claims Graves and comperes put forward about EPA overreach have been well refuted elsewhere – they’re patently false (see also here (pdf)). Worse, we’ve heard the same story over and over before. For example, as Think Progress points out, almost the same rhetoric was used in the GOP-led struggle to undo regulation of the lethally dangerous asbestos industry.

One commentator pointed out that Graves timed his new legislation to coincide with a Missouri visit by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, which he noted with lots of heroic chest-thumping and territorial gibbering on his Website. Which leads me to ask: does this new, aggressive Sam Graves have anything to do with the upcoming August Primary? Not only has Graves’ district grown considerably in the wake of redistricting, incorporating new voters – it now takes in the entire Northern section of the state, including the Northeastern areas previously represented by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-3) – he also has three primary challengers, at least two of whom, Brian Tharp and Christopher Ryan, seem to  coming after his right flank, which, no matter how haltingly they may be limping toward it, has to resonate somewhat in these days after the fall of Eric Cantor. How better to show up your GOP opponents than to launch a few stones, no matter how feeble, at the heart of the GOP’s favorite regulatory beast.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  It occurs to me that Blaine Luetkemeyer actually established himself in his erstwhile Northeast district through lots of shrill anti-EPA rhetoric and climate change denialism. Seems to have gone over big with the Farm Bureau types up there. Think Sam wants the big-ag folks to know he’s a real Luektemeyer soul brother?