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Griffith surveys constituents in 9th District
Immigration, budget measures backed but not new gun laws
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Brian Williams (from left) and Anna Wallace, both of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), confer with 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith on Friday at the New College Institute in Martinsville. Griffith’s traveling staff was holding constituent hours here Friday, and the congressman joined them. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Initial trends of people responding to an issues survey by 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith indicate large majorities support a balanced budget amendment and legal ways for illegal immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship.

But most oppose passing more gun control laws.

Griffith, who held constituent meetings at the New College Institute in Martinsville on Friday, said in an interview that the survey was mailed to 9th District residents in two waves in late December and early January. The deadline for mailing responses is Feb. 14.

Griffith, R-Salem, said his office had received responses from about 7,500 people as of Jan. 28. Of those:

• About 79 percent support adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution;

• About 68 percent support legislation that provides a pathway and a series of requirements for illegal immigrants to ultimately earn U.S. citizenship;

• About 78 percent oppose passing new laws that would restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and carry firearms;

• About 82 percent support allowing exploration for oil and natural gas in the waters off Virginia’s coastline;

• About 81 percent oppose regulations enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency that make it harder to mine coal and use coal as an energy source, resulting in higher electricity rates;

• About 73 percent support U.S. military action to prevent Iran from acquiring or building a nuclear weapon;

• About 80 percent support proposals that provide long-term stability to Medicare and Social Security by making adjustments to those programs for people who now are under the age of 55.

Based on comments he’s read, Griffith said he thinks some people may be confused on this question. So when the final survey results are published, there will be an asterisk noting that, he said.

He expects the final results may vary by several percentage points from the initial results, but he believes the current trends generally will continue.

On the immigration question, Griffith said he believes the key word is “earn.”

Although the survey question did not ask how illegal immigrants should earn U.S. citizenship, Griffith said he believes one way people in the 9th District would support is service in the U.S. military. But “what else?” he asked, speculating it would involve doing things “to share in the American dream.”

He said his office later may try to gauge public opinion through such things as polling on what illegal immigrants should do to earn citizenship.

On the gun control issue, Griffith said he opposes passing additional federal gun control laws. Instead, he said there should be checks to keep guns out of the hands of people with serious mental health issues who are a danger to themselves or others.

When asked about the National Rifle Association’s proposal for congressional appropriations to put an armed guard in every school, Griffith said he thinks that should be an issue for states and local schools. However, if federal funds were available without increasing the national debt/deficit, he would consider it, though achieving that would be challenging in the current fiscal climate, he said.

On another matter, Griffith said he voted for the so-called No Budget, No Pay Act that will prevent the United States from hitting its debt limit until May 19. According to news media reports, the bill is called that because it includes a provision that members of Congress who do not approve a budget resolution by April 15 will have their congressional pay withheld until they do so.

That is a criticism of the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has failed to pass a budget since 2009. The Senate passed the No Budget, No Pay act on Thursday.

In an interview, his newsletter and a news release, Griffith said he was eager to see the budget proposal the Senate develops and that “unless they intend to heavily tax the middle class, the Senate cannot solve our debt and deficit problem with tax increases alone.”

He said he suspects that to get the votes needed to pass a budget plan in the Senate, the Democratic leadership will have to include spending cuts, likely including cuts to defense spending, in its budget proposal.

“A long-range plan will have to be more than defense cuts and tax increases,” Griffith stated in a news release.

Griffith said he favors select budget cuts rather than across-the board cuts (sequestration), and he would be willing to support some revenue increases, such as eliminating all energy subsidies.

He said he would like to see a balanced budget in about 10-12 years.

“I understand, as do most members of the House, that there must be compromise on the pressing issues facing our nation today, but we cannot negotiate a common sense, long-term deficit reduction plan alone. It must be done with the Senate’s involvement. To reiterate, we do not expect the Senate to pass a budget that we agree with completely, but we need to see their proposal,” Griffith stated in a news release.

On the nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for U.S. secretary of defense, Griffith said the Senate votes on confirmation, but if he were a senator, he would have concerns about some of Hagel’s previous statements on Israel, specifically his comments about a strong Jewish lobby in Washington. Griffith said Israel is the United States’ most reliable ally in the Middle East.

Griffith also said he will introduce a bill by the end of the month to allow terminally ill patients to use investigational drugs if the patient buys the drugs at his/her own expense.

He said it costs about $1 billion to bring a new drug to market.


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