Morgan Griffith: Defense, freedom, trees
On July 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed on a near-party line vote the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
This bill, which comes up annually, is supposed to authorize funding for our Armed Forces and national security, but unfortunately the Democrat majority used this year’s NDAA for partisan purposes, seeking to tie President Trump’s hands as he works to solve the crisis at the southern border.
The NDAA for this year prohibits the use of Defense Department funds from being used to build a wall or any other type of security barrier along the border, or simply modifying or reconstructing parts of the existing wall. It even prevents funds going to this purpose that previously have been appropriated by Congress, a step which I doubt is constitutional. The President’s ability to deploy troops to the border is also restricted.
For months, Democrats ignored or downplayed the very real humanitarian and security challenges on the border. Speaker Nancy Pelosi even called it a “manufactured crisis.” Only recently have they publicly considered it a crisis, yet they use the NDAA to prevent the President from doing anything about it, while refusing to work with him on separate legislation to solve the problem.
A separate objection I have to the NDAA concerned the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who are now in custody as suspected terrorists. For years, the NDAA has barred them from being transferred to the United States. The majority this year dropped that language, allowing suspected terrorists to be shipped to the continental United States.
Because of these objectionable provisions, I withdrew an amendment I have offered in years past to protect civil liberties for Americans. While I still strongly support my amendment’s intent, I believe that, in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson’s rules for parliamentary procedure, one should not seek to amend a bill he or she will not vote for anyway.
The NDAA is about national security. It is hard to see how the priorities included in this year’s NDAA by the majority will serve that purpose.
A Freedom Story from the Salem Fair
Each year I look forward to visiting the Salem Fair and its performances, exhibits, and other attractions. This year, I heard something that struck a deeper chord.
On July 5, one of the performers, a juggler called Hilby, noted, “Yesterday, your country celebrated its birthday. It truly is a great day to celebrate because of the freedoms you all have. I grew up in East Germany.”
I wondered to myself how many knew the story of East Germany. When Germany and its capital Berlin were split into zones by the Allies after World War II, the East became a Communist state. It had no hesitation killing its own people when they tried to escape to the free West.
It was refreshing to hear from someone who recognized how special our country is, because he knew that what we have is rare in many places across the globe.
When we talk about ways to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, cutting-edge technologies are often discussed. I have advocated in this column often for research that could lead to major advances in the field. But a recent article in the Roanoke Times highlighted a much simpler approach that could also help: planting trees.
According to the story, a Swiss research team found that mass amounts of new trees could remove almost 830 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, comparable to humanity’s carbon emissions over the past 25 years.
The number of trees would be enormous: one trillion. But the study’s author found that there could be room for 1.5 trillion new trees on Earth.
Many people can make their contribution now, by planting a tree on their property and protecting those that already stand. It’s a simple but vital way to protect our environment.
The city of Paris is planting “urban forests” to cool the city, with plans for thousands of new trees and ultimately 50 percent of the city covered by planted areas. Cities and towns can follow this lead, incorporating more trees into their landscape in a manner that adds beauty and is environmentally-friendly.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.