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Profiles: Griffith, Flaccavento vie in 9th
Griffith: ‘Transition’ is tough
Sunday, October 21, 2012
By BY PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Republican Morgan Griffith, who is seeking a second term as 9th District U.S. representative, said his main message to the people of Henry County and Martinsville is, “We’re working hard to create an environment in Washington to make it easier to bring jobs.”
He said the federal government, though perhaps well intentioned, “hasn’t done any favors” for this area in that regard over the years, and “a lot of mistakes were made.”
The federal government should make certain a transition to new jobs will happen before killing off existing jobs the way the North American Free Trade Agreement has done to such industries as textiles, said Griffith, R-Salem. He added that he feels the Obama administration’s environmental policies toward coal are doing the same thing in Southwest Virginia. (See related story, Page 2-C.)
“In Washington, I often hear politicians talk about economic ‘transitions’ away from whatever product or industry they think is dispensable at the time. But I rarely hear them talk about the results of that ‘transition.’ The fact of the matter is that it’s very easy to talk about ‘transitions’ and much harder to make them happen,” Griffith said in a recent newsletter.
“One area that was supposed to ‘transition’ was Southern Virginia. Though still home to the highest unemployment rate in Virginia, the economic future in Martinsville finally appears to be getting better,” he wrote, citing the Oct. 11 announcement that RTI International Metals in Martinsville completed its first commercial aerospace titanium product. The new $135 million forging, grinding and hot rolling manufacturing facility has 25 employees, and expects to add more as its operations grow.
As for the coal industry, “This year in my district alone, a thousand miners were laid off, and thousands more have lost their jobs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. These ramifications are being felt throughout our economy,” Griffith stated in the newsletter. And, it said, “if the EPA implements policies intended to shut down coal-fired power plants, people should know that their electricity prices are going to go up.”
To create jobs in this area, Griffith said he is working to reduce regulations and taxes on businesses so they will be better positioned to invest and create jobs.
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s economic development team, including Mary Rae Carter, deputy secretary of commerce and trade for rural economic development, is doing a good job, Griffith said. He added that economic developers are working on something that has potential for this area, but he declined to elaborate because “I don’t want to jinx” it.
On another issue, Griffith said he and U.S. 5th District Rep. Robert Hurt have been working to resolve the stall in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a permit for the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre. Griffith said he thinks it’s a solvable problem. He said the federal government has a one-size-fits-all approach, but the application of the rules in this case does not make sense.
Griffith said he believes the Obama administration “totally mishandled” its public comments about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Griffin said he believes the Obama administration “faked an alternative story” initially, talking about a controversial film and a spontaneous riot. “The film was out there, but the riot didn’t happen,” Griffith said.
If the administration had received bad information or didn’t know what happened, the president should have told the American people up front that it was too early to say what happened and the investigation was continuing, Griffith said.
“Either the president was not in the loop, in which case Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should resign — I don’t think that’s the case — or the president and his folks were misleading the public, which is unacceptable,” Griffith said.
On how to deal with gridlock and how he will reach across the aisle if re-elected, Griffith said, “I have been reaching across the aisle.” He said he looks at bills and votes for the ones that he thinks make sense. In addition to Republicans, Griffith said he has worked with some Democrats who share “some commonality of purpose and philosophy” with him.
For instance, he said he worked with North Carolina’s 1st District U.S. Rep. G.K Butterfield on the EPA Regulatory Relief Act. According to Griffin’s website, “The bill would help to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Boiler MACT regulations on boilers and industrial incinerators. The Council of Industrial Boiler Owners estimates that the regulations will cost 244,000 jobs. The EPA Regulatory Relief Act would help to roll back unreasonable regulations and save thousands of American jobs.”
According to online information, the House of Representatives approved the bill. “We got 40 Democratic votes on that,” Griffith said.
Another example, he said, is that he supports the Democratic bill to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service rather than the Republican bill.
Griffith said he is working to reduce the deficit and curtail deficit spending. He said rules need to be changed to allow Congress to cut mandatory spending, just as the Virginia General Assembly does, when it faces a shortage of funds. Congress just borrows more money, he said.
Speaking generally, he said the federal government should provide essential services and those that make sense; scrutinize budgets more carefully; and make cuts where reasonable. For instance, he asked, does the United States still need 80,000 troops in Europe years after the fall of the Soviet empire. He also asked if the U.S. should be spending about $69 million a year to maintain and protect wild horses and burros.
“A lot of stuff is buried in there (governmental budgets),” he said, referring to what he considers wasteful or unnecessary spending. “We need to watch every penny. “If we take care of nickels and dimes, or in the case of (the federal government), watch out for millions, that will turn into billions and trillions.”
Griffith continues to believe that there should be no new taxes. He said he wouldn’t say whether he would vote to extend unemployment benefits again. He would consider whether it makes sense and consider the economy, he said.
Congress must find a solution to prevent sequestration, or across-the-board federal spending cuts to reduce the deficit, because sequestration would affect everybody, he said. “I was in the minority. I did not vote for sequestration,” he said.
The House has sent two proposals to the Senate to reduce the deficit and avoid sequestration, but the Senate has not responded, Griffith said. “They didn’t have to like it. It should have been a springboard for discussion. The Senate has to get serious about wanting to get the job done and start discussion,” he said.
He said he did not know at what point he would vote to avoid the fiscal cliff, or the point at which sequestration would take effect, explaining, “I can’t say what I would and wouldn’t vote for.”
Everything depends on who wins the Nov. 6 elections. If the Democrats lose control of the Senate, they may be more likely to make a deal by Dec. 31, he said.
Rather than for Congress to further legislatively limit political campaign donations, Griffith favors allowing donors to give whatever they want to candidates but require candidates to fully disclose their contributors. “I think it’s better to have transparency and let people see what’s going on,” he said. “You can’t stop money getting into politics.”
Griffith said he thinks Republican Mitt Romney will win the presidential race in Virginia, but the election is more than two weeks away. “I think if it were held today, Romney would win, but a lot can happen in Virginia,” he said, adding that he thinks turnout will be a big factor.
On the proposal to lift the uranium mining ban in Virginia, Griffith said he thinks whatever the commonwealth decides to do, it should act cautiously and “put in double and triple safeguards” to protect public health and safety.
On other issues, he said, “I have been unequivocal in protecting gun rights” and has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
“I am a strong supporter of the Constitution” and believe in having the least government to take care of essential things.
Griffith said Obamacare should be repealed and replaced. However, he favors keeping the ideas in the 100 or so pages of the law’s more than 2,000 pages that he thinks make sense, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, some black lung benefits and keeping but improving the provision allowing young people to stay on their parent’s insurance until 26.
His strategy for the last days of the campaign is the same as it has been throughout the campaign: “to campaign hard, work hard, talk to as many people as I can and stand up for the principles I believe in,” he said.