Tea partiers in southwest Va. protest at Rep. Griffith’s offices over health-care funding

In his first 10 weeks representing Virginia’s 9th congressional district, Rep. Morgan Griffith has followed a path similar to many of his fellow Republican freshmen.

He voted for a continuing resolution that would cut more than $60 billion from the federal budget through September, and backed amendments to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and President Obama’s health-reform plan. Griffith has also attacked the Environmental Protection Agency and defended a ban on gay marriage.

Yet to some tea party activists in southwest Virginia, Griffith has not been conservative enough. And they’re letting him know it, staging protests Wednesday at his district offices in Abingdon and Christiansburg.

Local tea party groups – six of which will be represented at the protests, according to a release – are upset that Griffith didn’t favor using the latest short-term spending resolution, which passed the House Tuesday, as a vehicle for defunding the health-care measure. Griffith voted for Tuesday’s bill, while 54 fellow Republicans voted against it.

“We feel very strongly that this needs to be addressed and we don’t feel the House majority leadership is addressing that,” Southwest Virginia Tea Party organizer Catherine Turner said Wednesday.

Specifically, Turner and her allies want Griffith to back an effort by Reps. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) to take back $105 billion they claim was “buried” in the health-care measure. (The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has examined Bachmann’s assertion and found that “her claim that this money was ‘hidden’ does not have credibility.”)

In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, Griffith said he agreed with the aim of Bachmann and King, just not their method.

“I support defunding this egregious law, but using the Continuing Resolution to do so is not the proper vehicle,” Griffith said. “House rules do not allow for it. The appropriate legislative mechanism is one where mandatory spending, such as the $105.5 billion allocated for ObamaCare implementation, can be altered.”

Turner noted that Griffith “was not our original candidate” for the seat, which he won by defeating vet­eran Rep. Rick Boucher (D). Griffith secured the nomination with the support of much of the GOP establishment, but didn’t have the initial backing of some tea party groups. But they pledged to support Griffith in October in exchange for his vow to pursue a series of conservative goals, including “to diligently work to cut the size of government” and “to defund and repeal the health care bill.”

Turner said she and her fellow activists would watch Griffith closely to make sure he adhered to those pledges.

“If not” she said, “we’re looking for another candidate.”

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