Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 6.24.19

A Week in the House

Monday, June 24, 2019 | Kevin Baird (202-225-3861)

Most weeks in the House of Representatives are busy. Votes, committee hearings, constituent meetings, etc., occupy my time. A recent week highlights how these activities affect policies that are meaningful in the lives of Virginians in the Ninth Congressional District.

Energy and Commerce Committee Hearings: Pipelines and Abortion

Many hours are spent on committee business, whether hearings or marking up legislation to advance to the House floor. Because Democrats hold the majority in the House, they control the topics of committee hearings and the legislation that advances. Sometimes there are opportunities to build on common ground, and sometimes not.

A Subcommittee on Energy hearing on pipeline safety provided an instance of the former. Ensuring the security and integrity of pipelines where they are built is a matter on which both parties agree. I used my time to learn more about how new technology would enhance pipeline safety.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations’ hearing on Title X held the same day, by contrast, was an example of partisanship against the Trump Administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently rolled out regulations to prevent money in the Title X program from supporting abortion. Considering that the statute governing Title X specifically bars using it to fund programs “where abortion is a method of family planning,” HHS’ rule simply upholds the law.

Even people who consider themselves pro-choice are uncomfortable with their tax dollars paying for abortions, but the witnesses called by the Democrats were far from the mainstream. One of them, Dr. Monica McLemore, discussed in her testimony that “reproductive justice,” defined as “the right to decide if and when to become pregnant and to determine the conditions under which they will birth,” was the “theory and praxis to guide all of my work.”

Hearing this broad, vague definition, I had to ask: does “reproductive justice” require allowing late-term abortions of the sort that would have been permitted under the bill introduced by Delegate Kathy Tran in the last session of the House of Delegates? As you will recall from Delegate Todd Gilbert’s questioning of Delegate Tran, her legislation removing restrictions on late-term abortion would allow it to occur up until the moment of birth. Even after dilation had begun.

The witness’ answers were not clear on this point, but I interpreted from her answers that if the mother felt it was “reproductive justice,” she would be allowed to abort the baby. Further, she did not rule out the possibility that a Title X counselor on family planning could refer a dilating mother to an abortion clinic.

I found this disturbing. I cannot imagine any definition of “justice” that would allow such an act.

Affordable Clean Energy Rule

An important event I attended outside of the committee occurred at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA unveiled its new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, replacing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, and I joined other congressional colleagues and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in speaking favorably about the rule.

I argued many times against the Clean Power Plan, which was illegally based on previous court rulings and even the EPA’s prior interpretation of its own authority. The ACE rule that replaces it respects the authority that Congress gave the EPA under the Clean Air Act while implementing policies to reduce pollutant emissions from the energy sector.

Protecting Miners From Black Lung

In the House Education and Labor Committee, chaired by Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), an important hearing on black lung took place. I thank Chairman Scott for allowing me to participate due to the topic’s importance for many in the coalfields. I focused on steps that could be taken to protect miners from black lung, including by use of personal protective equipment (PPEs).

The answers I heard left me considering legislation. Right now, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is prohibited from considering PPEs as alleviation for the breathing of dust. This strikes me as illogical. We wouldn’t expect a diver to go underwater without breathing equipment. Why would rules block a miner from using breathing equipment in a difficult environment? Allowing PPEs as an option in some situations to mitigate dust seems to be a commonsense action.

As you can see, these hearings and meetings on topics of national importance are often deeply relevant to the lives of Southwest Virginians. I am honored to represent you in Washington, D.C., and work on your behalf in the nation’s capital.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

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