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Incumbents stress work on key issues
Griffith still targets growing debt, regulations
Rep. Morgan Griffith
Sunday, March 16, 2014
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith will announce his re-election intentions later this spring, but for now, he is concentrating on fighting government overreach and the growing U.S. debt.
For now, “I will say I’d be shocked if I didn’t run” for a third term in November, said Griffith, R-Salem. “My primary concerns include the debt that we are piling up that my generation won’t have to pay. We are just laying it on the future.”
When he first sought national office in 2010, Griffith, 55, recalled, “I wanted to try to work on the debt, and we have done that. We have reduced spending. It has gone down for the first time since the Korean War. We are making progress. But the debt is still growing.”
“The EPA is another concern,” Griffith said of the Environmental Protection Agency. “It is out of control.” For instance, in 2013, the EPA claimed authority under the Clean Air Act to change the borders of a Wyoming Indian reservation, moving more than one town onto the reservation, Griffith said.
“How can you think the Clean Air Act gave you authority to adjust borders? While this has nothing to do with my district, it does show how crazy” the EPA has become, he said.
Griffith has butted heads with the agency on several occasions, one of which involved the EPA’s Boiler MACT, which requires industrial, commercial and institutional boilers across the nation to meet new emission limits and work practice standards by 2016.
HR 2250 (the EPA Regulatory Relief Act) would have alleviated excessive regulatory burdens imposed by the EPA and saved jobs, Griffith said. The proposal “would have done some really great things” for a number of sectors, but the EPA made some changes to the proposal, and its effect was more limited “to the boiler, pulp and paper industries,” he said.
He also worked with 5th District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, and U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which rejected the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The Corps was acting as an agent for the EPA.
The corps blocked permits for grading work at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Henry County because end users have not been identified. But local officials argued that companies will not consider a site that hasn’t been graded.
A change included in the appropriations legislation that rejects the corps’ interpretation of the Clean Water Act was critical to Henry County and Martinsville — as well as other areas — that are working on speculative economic development efforts such as Commonwealth Crossing, Griffith has said. He and the other lawmakers hope the legislation will keep EPA concerns from thwarting such projects.
“It is obvious that I still will focus on jobs and the regulations that are killing them,” Griffith added.
Health care also tops the list of the congressman’s concerns. After Griffith was appointed last year to a House health subcommittee, legislation was approved to hopefully prevent fungal meningitis outbreaks such as one that occurred last year in 20 states, he said.
After some patients were treated with tainted steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center, they became ill and, in some cases, died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that a total of 64 people died, including five in Virginia.
The new law — passed before Thanksgiving — outlines rules that labs must follow when mass-producing sterile injections, Griffith said.
“I will continue to work on health care issues, such as the rural care in conjunction with Obamacare, which I would like to see done away with for a number of reasons,” Griffith said.
He was referring to the Affordable Care Act, which he said is having a negative impact on rural hospitals by prompting Medicare spending cuts that are causing some facilities to close, including one in Lee County.
The closures “create a situation where people in rural areas don’t get service as much or as quickly as they need to,” Griffith said. He added that Lee County residents now must travel 45 minutes for routine health care as well as for emergency services, such as cardiac care.
Those closures “make it hard for those folks who live off the beaten path. We have got to make sure that when they make rules in Washington, it doesn’t negatively impact our rural hospitals,” he said.
Also, “there’s work that still needs to be done on the deficit and the debt. The deficit is what we are spending this year and the debt is what we overspent the last several years,” he said. Griffith noted that he recently voted against a bill to raise the debt ceiling.
“I think that if we are going to raise the debt ceiling, there are some things that we should have done to reduce the deficit and debt for the future. Anything that would have been a signal we were doing that would have been sufficient” to get his vote, Griffith said.
“Did you know that repairs to generals’ and admirals’ houses” do not have to be pre-approved if the cost is less than $35,000, Griffith asked. “I got that lowered to $15,000 in the House, but the Senate” declined to approve the change in what is considered mandatory spending, he said.
Although he does not see another partial government shutdown on the horizon, Griffith also does not rule it out.
“I don’t think you should say, ‘Never,’ and the reason is if the government is out of control, you have to have that on the table,” he said. “Do you want to do that? No, but sometimes you’ve got to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”