By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Virginia’s 9th Congressional District is the most geographically challenging region in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with mountains everywhere and a hills to climb around every bend. Incumbent U.S. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., apologized to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph if he appeared fatigued, before asking his campaign scheduler, Danielle Barrow, what day they had been in Norton, Va.
“That was today,” she responded.
The fatigue didn’t appear to bother Griffith, however the stories he was hearing from the campaign trail gave him pause.
“This war on coal has real casualties,” he said. “Monday is not a big day for flea marketing, but I heard from somebody in Wise County that he talked to a roadside flea marketer ... an out of work coal miner who was trying to sell his pickup truck and his work clothes. He was selling everything.
“I talked with an insurance agent who told me that one of his customers came into his office to drop all of his insurance coverage,” Griffith said. “He had been laid off a couple months earlier, and they were just struggling to keep their house and put food on the table.
“It’s not just coal miners who are hurting,” Griffith said. “I was at J&M Parts in Norton (Monday) morning, and the owner told me that six months or a year ago, the company was making 20 deliveries a day to coal mines. Now they’re down to seven or eight per day. The administration’s war on coal has a bigger footprint than you might think. This is not just coal’s problem.”
Griffith won election to the House of Representatives in 2010, defeating a very popular incumbent Democrat Congressman Rick Boucher, who had served in Congress for nearly three full decades. Boucher had worked his way up the ladder to earn positions on several key House committees, but his yes vote on President Barack Obama’s “American Clean Energy & Security Act of 2009” proved to be a real challenge for the incumbent, Boucher, who typically earned re-election with 68-70 percent of the vote.
But Griffith wasn’t a political neophyte by any stretch of the imagination. After winning three elections to the Virginia House of Delegates, Griffith was re-elected to a fourth term in 2000 and with a Republican majority in the House, he unseated long-term House Majority Leader Delegate Dick Cranwell, D-Vinton, and became the first Republican in Virginia history to hold the house majority leader position.
During his opening statement, Griffith said that the people of the 9th Congressional District sent him to fight the Obama administration. “There’s no question in my opinion that there is a war on coal,” he said. He went on to say that he successfully fought against the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Boiler Mact” rules that would restrict emissions from coal-fired industrial boilers.
In response to a question concerning the logjam in Congress, he said that, “part of the problem is people are looking ahead to the election of 2012. We have a Senate — most of whom tend to lean toward the left. It seems like (U.S. Senator) Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appears to be a component of the administration,” Griffith said. “In the House, you have many members who lean right of center.” He said that he hopes the election will bring a right-of-center Senate to power, and said that Thomas Jefferson envisioned a legislative branch that would not be a component of the administration.
“It’s not the Senate’s job to protect the president,” Griffith said. “If the House and Senate act independently of the executive branch, that will allow us to compromise on issues and get things moving again.”
In addition to moving ahead, Griffith said that he would like to make dramatic changes to the current filibuster rule in Congress, saying that now, members can simply “phone it in,” and not go through the traditional filibuster process. “Whether you like it or not, you can’t get anything done,” he said. “People may not want to hear it, but you get in there and horse trade. That’s the way it’s done.”
In response to a question about global warming, Griffith said that the earth has gone through many cycles. “There’s a lot of history we don’t know anything about,” he said. While he conceded that the earth appears to be in a warming cycle, “We are destroying the American economy with an attempt to control the climate. Even if we did everything the environmentalists want us to do, we would not change what’s happening in emerging countries.
“If you are in a country that has been living in poverty for centuries, you’re not going to sit on the sidelines,” he said. “We’ve had some reasonable regulations that have made a difference.” However, he predicted that the restrictive EPA regulations will push more companies out of the country to manufacture goods in countries that have no environmental safeguards. “We’re chasing jobs out of the country,” Griffith said.
“We’re not the only country with coal,” he said. “China is now producing more coal than we produce in the U.S.” He added that Australia, Mozambique, Indonesia and Russia are all increasing coal production. “Right now, 39 percent of all of the energy in the world is powered by coal,” Griffith said. “If we drive all of our industries out of this country, we’re not going to have enough money to afford the more restrictive controls.”
“We just drove past the Dominion Plant out in Wise County,” he said. “That’s the most technically advanced coal-fired energy plant in the world. If the present regulations were in place, we could not open the same plant today.”
Griffith said his first term in office has been “a tough time.” While his predecessor had some successful job-creation initiatives, he has been operating in a growing federal deficit. “My job is to create an environment where businesses can grow,” he said. “What I’m always doing is looking for things we can do in Southwest Virginia to bring prospective job creators here.
“I have told (regional economic developers) that I will make time to help the effort,” he said. “It’s been a tough couple of years in Washington.” He said that businesses are uncertain at this time.
Griffith said that federal earmarks are not a good idea “while we’re in debt as much as we are now,” he said. “When we get out of debt, I think there ought to be limits on earmarks. When you’re spending a trillion dollars, you don’t have a lot of money on hand to give out in earmarks.
“The trouble with the line-item veto, there are some who say it gives too much power to the president,” he said. “The last time we went through this battle, there was a pledge in the 1990s,” he said.
He said that the nation needs a long-term federal highway bill for both commerce and national defense. He also commented on the good qualities of ObamaCare, including being able to keep children on parents’ health insurance until they reached 26 years old. As far as addressing the Social Security and Medicare problems, Griffith said he would be willing to look at all proposals.
“If Democrats come up with a better plan, I’ll vote for it,” he said. “Sticking our heads in the sand is not a plan.” He added that in all issues, Congress needs to, “make sure we deal with it and deal with it honestly. We have a looming problem.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org