Serving as the U.S. Representative for Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District has meant putting a lot of miles on my car. Getting around the 29 jurisdictions in the district’s current boundaries as well as to Washington, D.C., requires frequent travel here and there.
Even so, the driving I did on July 28-29 was quite a lot for one day.
That legislative week in the House of Representatives began on Tuesday, July 26, and ended on Friday, July 29, and involved more than 30 votes on bills, resolutions, and amendments.
While I was in Washington, Southwest Virginia was again struck by heavy storms that caused substantial flooding. Just weeks after floodwaters swept through Buchanan County, the same disaster befell Dickenson and Wise Counties.
Serving in Congress requires choices, in how I vote and how I spend my time. As damage reports came in on Thursday, I decided that I needed to see the situation for myself. I try to avoid missing votes whenever possible, but the bills expected at the time on the floor Friday were not controversial and likely to pass by large margins. Being on the ground at the site of the floods was more important.
We often vote in the evening, but the Congressional Baseball Game for charity was taking place that night. So after votes concluded on Thursday afternoon, I skipped the game, packed up my car, and headed for Southwest Virginia. My staff coordinated with law enforcement to set up the visits.
I arrived in St. Paul to stay overnight around 12:30 am on Friday and woke up around 5:30 am to head to my first stop, Clintwood. There I met with Dickenson County officials and inspected the flood damage.
Following Clintwood, I visited flooded sites in the Towns of Pound, Wise, and Coeburn in Wise County to see how the storms had affected them, joined by county officials and Virginia House of Delegates Majority Leader Terry Kilgore.
At some locations, the waters had not yet receded. Roads and bridges had been washed away, The result of this damage for two neighborhoods in Dickenson County was to cut them off from the rest of the public road system. A ballfield in Coeburn had been covered by three to four feet of water.
Fortunately, no lives were lost, but recovery from the physical destruction will take time and require cooperation at all levels of government and with support from nonprofits, businesses, and individuals.
Just as I left Coeburn, I was notified that a controversial bill would be coming up later that day in the House of Representatives after all, thanks to some procedural trickery.
Earlier in the week, House Democrats had been negotiating between themselves on a package of bills that included a ban on some guns and funding for police departments. Negotiations had appeared to be at an impasse, so these bills were not scheduled for floor action. But overnight Thursday into Friday, a deal was reached so Democrats could proceed with a gun ban. Apparently, they could not agree on supporting the police, but they could find consensus on taking away some guns.
Typically, bills must be available for 72 hours before they can be considered on the floor. The Democrat majority evaded this requirement by passing a rule allowing for “same day authority” to bring up any legislation they wanted within one legislative day.
Knowing the vote would be close, I raced back to Washington from Wise County and after the six and a half-hour drive arrived just in time to vote no on the gun ban. It had been a long ride, but our Constitution, including the Second Amendment, demanded my support.
Ultimately, the House passed the gun ban by a vote of 217-213. If just a few more Democrats had joined the five who voted against the ban, or if the two Republicans who supported it had not, the measure would not have passed. But the narrow margin and strong opposition may have given the bill a “fever,” as we said in the House of Delegates: the bill was now sick and its prospects for survival doubtful. In this case, the Senate hopefully will not want to press forward with the gun ban.
It was a long and demanding day, but I am honored to serve the people of the Ninth District on any day, whether in Wise County or Washington.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.