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, hes among the group making life harder for GOP leaders by holding the line on spending and the debt ceiling.
That spot just happened to be in East Hill Cemetery, near the grave of his hero, Revolutionary War Gen. Andrew Lewis, whom Griffith has been known to dress up as.
Griffith's first political battle had been an attempt as student council president in 1976 to persuade the Salem City Council to name the new high school after Lewis. He failed, but he made up for it decades later with a General Assembly bill soon after he became Majority Leader. Now a long stretch of Interstate 81 around his hometown boasts Lewis' name.
But those were the good ol' days.
Chances are Griffith won't get a bill passed into law anytime soon, and he doesn't get much of the floor time that really gets him excited. So he uses his role on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to engage. He liked a tit for tat with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — when he charged that the Little Engine That Could wouldn't make it up the mountain today because it would be over-regulated — so much that he had the video posted on his website.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) remembers Griffith being "the designated hitter taking shots at me" when he served as governor. "He loved the back and forth, but it was never personal," Warner said.
Griffith said he thinks GOP leaders understand his cross-examination skills and recognize that "this guy likes to play."
There's no playing this day. With a green bottle of his favorite beverage (Dr. Enuf, an "elixir" of caffeine and sugar bottled on the Tennessee line) by his side, Griffith said nothing before becoming one of 31 nay votes to defeat a Democratic amendment dealing with regulating pollutants from tugboats.
McDonnell wasn't surprised to hear about Griffith's work ethic, remembering all-nighters they pulled writing state budgets. "I'm sure there are a lot of other late nights that people never see with Morgan getting things done," McDonnell said.
Griffith looked wistful as he compared constantly "being on" in Virginia to the lulling pace of the "backbencher" in Washington.
"But I was a backbencher in the minority before I became Majority Leader," he said. "It will happen with time if I keep doing what I do, which is work hard."