Syria â€“ A Vote of Conscience
I have been hearing from people throughout the Ninth District of Virginia about President Obamaâ€™s request that Congress authorize military action in Syria. This is a grave and serious issue, and I am grateful for every opinion I have received. More than 1,200 people have contacted my offices to formally express their views on this matter. Also, I have personally spoken with hundreds of people at meetings, in grocery store parking lots, at football games, and in church. In fact, this issue has surpassed Second Amendment Rights as the top issue that my office has received contact on since January 1, 2013.
I am still gathering information and listening to the Administrationâ€™s case, and am wrestling with a number of important questions. As Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46) said on Sunday, September 8, â€śthe minute that one of those cruise missiles lands in there, we are in the Syrian war,â€ť â€śfor the President to say this is just, you know, a very quick thing and we're out of there [pause] that's how long wars start,â€ť and â€śyou canâ€™t just lob in a few missiles and say that thatâ€™s the end.â€ť I tend to agree with her on this.
On the other hand, the President is right in that the use of chemical weapons should not be accepted by the international community. At the time of this writing, a September 9 suggestion by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad â€śturn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next weekâ€ť appears to have been tentatively welcomed by the Russian and Syrian foreign ministers as a possible way to avoid an American attack. If Russia and Syria are serious and willing to prove that they mean it, hasnâ€™t the Administrationâ€™s point been made?
On Saturday, September 7, my family and I were fortunate enough to attend the Virginia Tech home opener in Blacksburg. As I watched the Corps of Cadets file into Lane Stadium, my thoughts went to the importance this decision will have on the lives of these and other young people.
At times like this, I am reminded of The Wizard of Ozâ€™s Cowardly Lion. To borrow from him, â€śWhat makes a King out of a slave? Courage. What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.â€ť As a nation, we must possess the courage to act when it is in our nationâ€™s best interest, the courage to refrain from action when action is not in our nationâ€™s best interest, and the wisdom to determine the difference. At this time Iâ€™m not sure it is in the United Statesâ€™ strategic interest to intervene militarily, though I remain willing to listen to the Administrationâ€™s case. Respectfully, I seek prayers for discernment from you as the debate regarding any involvement in the Syrian civil war continues.
Meningitis Tragedy and Compounding Pharmacies
As you may know, there were 2 deaths and 50 confirmed cases of fungal meningitis in our region last fall that were associated with sterile compounded injections from the New England Compounding Center. Approximately 1,400 patients in our region alone were notified that they may have been exposed to fungal meningitis through tainted steroid injections. This is a true public health crisis for our nation.
While I firmly believe that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had the authority they needed to have prevented the fungal meningitis outbreak, I have been working on a bipartisan basis on legislation to define true compounding pharmacies and manufacturers, and clarify FDA authority in an effort to be sure that this type of tragedy doesnâ€™t happen again.
We are very close to reaching a bipartisan agreement on the legislationâ€™s language. Things are now moving quickly, and there is a distinct possibility that the language I have been working on may be incorporated into a larger comprehensive pharmacy bill. Thatâ€™s fine by me. I learned while in the Virginia legislature that it is not about having your name on the bill â€“ itâ€™s about getting the job done. â€śGetting the job doneâ€ť in this case is making sure we have a good final product to fix the sterile compounding issue for patients and families across the United States. Hopefully I will have more news about this subject in the coming weeks.
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.