Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Griffith Likes to Go His Way, Even if It’s Odd

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
Freshman Rep. Morgan Griffith is adjusting to life as a backbencher in Congress after serving as Majority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates. Still, he’s among the group making life harder for GOP leaders by holding the line on spending and the debt ceiling.

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Morgan Griffith was the first Republican to ever serve as Majority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, and he loved every second of it.

The attorney from Southwest Virginia would bounce a bit on his heels as he commanded the attention of 99 Delegates on the House floor. It was playtime for Griffith, who wore a big smile arguing about the constitutionality of legislation and scoring points with political maneuvers.

Now, as a freshman Member of Congress, Griffith is "dead last" to speak at hearings. And he has virtually no say in his party's agenda, even though his unseating of a Democrat in the 9th district last fall helped usher the GOP into power.

Six months in, Griffith is the kind of Republican who is making life harder for party leaders. He's insisting he'll oppose the debt ceiling increase unless it comes with major cuts, and he refused to support the last continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

He said it doesn't matter that he empathizes with his fellow Virginian, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, because of his own many years in charge of a caucus.

"I'm just in a different role," Griffith told Roll Call on a recent Thursday morning in his office. "Leadership has to make sure that they keep things running, but I'm not leadership. I'm a backbencher who was sent here to try to change this place."

As he gets amped up about spending, Griffith, who turned 53 last week, points to a framed photo of his three children and focuses on 11-year-old Abby.

"Under the plan that Democrats want to tell everybody is too conservative ... we don't stop borrowing money until she's 40," he said. "Exactly how do you justify that?"

That's one reason he opposed the final CR, a move he said was his toughest vote yet. But he's prepared to cast an even tougher one.

"If it's not enough, I vote 'no' on the debt ceiling," Griffith said. "It's got to be systemic change and cuts now. Both."

He said he would be glad if a compromise passes but that leadership shouldn't count on his support for a lukewarm plan. He won't budge: "Some of us have to mark a post on the outskirts and say we're taking our stand out here."

History Buff

Griffith's office tells you everything you need to know about the man.

A large piece of coal is prominently featured on the wall with a plaque reading: "A friend of coal is a friend of America." An aide said it was the first thing the team hung in the office.

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