Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Morgan Griffith Reports on His "Vacation"

Some correspondents think the August congressional "recess" is a good time for lobbying, when members of Congress should be held even more accountable for making themselves even more accessible to their constituents. Here's Morgan Griffith's response:

"Monday, August 12, 2013 –                                

Meeting with Local Officials
I recently had the opportunity to visit with local officials from each community in the Ninth District of Virginia, thanking them for their service and discussing their successes, issues they face, and expectations for the future.  Local officials from each of the Ninth District’s 29 jurisdictions were invited to these meetings, which we scheduled over a five day period.  In driving to attend them and other events, I put around 1,300 miles on my car!

Local officials are the front line – they are seen regularly throughout their communities, attending different events or simply running errands.  Local officials have their finger on the pulse in their communities, so it is important to ensure that communication with me and my office is a two-way street. 
I look forward to the numerous events across the Ninth District that allow me to learn, be of assistance, and answer questions, and am grateful for those who took time to attend these particular events.  I am happy to assist local officials and any other constituents in need of help, and urge all of you to be in touch with my offices should there be anything my team or I can do.  If there is something that my team cannot help you with and you need to talk with me, we will schedule an appointment either live or by telephone.  If it is something I need to see, my office will make arrangements for me to come to you.  However, I may not be able to come visit you immediately, because I cannot be everywhere.  But I will get there as soon as is practical. 
In order to better accommodate constituents across the 29 jurisdictions I represent, my office has established monthly traveling office hours.  At each meeting, I or a member of my team will be present.  I ask that you keep these traveling hours in mind should you need help with federal agencies or have a legislative question or concern.  A complete schedule of August’s traveling office hours can be found on my website, www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
Meetings like these “appreciation tours” and other visits teach me a great deal, and also enable me to provide an update on developments in Washington.  I look forward to continue building these relationships and others in the future.
While each jurisdiction had its own unique set of items to discuss, there also were common themes discussed in several of the jurisdictions.  Some asked for information on the implementation of President Obama’s health care reform law, for example.  Several officials asked for updates on examinations into Washington’s various scandals, particularly regarding Congressional oversight of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs. 
Responding to people throughout the country with concerns about these programs, on Friday, August 9, President Obama held a press conference in which he proposed increased transparency and reforms to the Patriot Act (which allows for collection of Americans’ data) and the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court).  I welcome the President’s commitment to these reforms and for his promise of increased transparency, and am hopeful that – as part of reform – I and other Congressmen will finally be granted access to the FISA court opinions and other documents mentioned in press reports that I have requested to review.  I understand that certain personal information and highly classified information about specific incidents would have to be blacked out, but what should not be blacked out is the legal reasoning of the court.  These items will provide valuable insight into the court’s reasoning and help to determine what specific reforms to these NSA surveillance programs we will need to pursue in order to strike a proper balance between our Constitutional rights and our desire to be protected from terrorists. 
Rest assured that I will continue working to improve oversight of the NSA surveillance programs and to protect the freedoms and liberty of all Americans.  I will be sure to keep you and our local officials updated to the extent that I can on our progress. 
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office by email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov."