Congressman Griffith’s Newsletter 10.9.17

Right-to-Try Update

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, on which I serve, recently heard testimony from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about expanding access to new, unapproved treatments for patients with life-threatening illnesses. I have long supported the idea of “right-to-try,” having introduced bills on the issue since 2014, and I am encouraged by increased support for it in Congress and by this Administration.

On the day that Dr. Gottlieb testified before my Committee, he announced in a blog post that FDA had updated guidance for expanded access to investigational drugs for treatment use. According to Dr. Gottlieb, the new guidance would require reporting suspected adverse reactions to investigational drugs only if evidence suggests that the drug is responsible. This revision would be a step in the right direction, and I am hopeful it will help patients facing long odds for recovery. I will continue to work in Congress for solutions that could provide even more relief, such as my bill, the Compassionate Freedom of Choice Act.

Budget Update

The budget is supposed to be a blueprint for appropriations bills. When the House passed the budget on October 5, however, it had already passed all appropriations bills, in fact the first time the House had done so before the deadline since 2009. So why did we subsequently pass the blueprint? To have a chance at real tax reform under the Senate rules, budget reconciliation is needed because it only requires 50 votes to reconcile the budget bill. Thus, we passed the budget in order to have a vehicle to fight for real tax reform.

Catalonia and Columbus

It’s appropriate that Catalonia is in the news around the same time Americans observe Columbus Day. At first glance, a regional referendum in Spain and Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World in 1492 may seem quite distant from each other. But a closer look reveals the truth of William Faulkner’s line, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Catalonia, a region in the northeastern corner of Spain, recently held a referendum on forming itself as an independent country. The referendum has set off a storm. The national government considered the referendum illegal and deployed police in an attempt to block it. Many Catalans who oppose secession abstained from voting, while 90% of those who did participate voted for independence.

Catalonia has its own distinct culture, including a commonly-used language, so how did it become part of Spain in the first place? This is where Catalonia crosses paths with Columbus. In 1137, its ruler married into the kingdom of Aragon. Over three centuries later, the king of Aragon, Ferdinand II, married Isabella I of Castile, uniting Spain under their joint rule. They evicted the last of the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula at Granada in 1492. The Moors were Northwest African Muslims who ruled parts of modern Spain beginning in the eighth century. As you recall from elementary school, 1492 was a big year for the Spanish. It was the same year Columbus departed with his three ships to find a western route to the Indies. His commission and funding came from Isabella, not Ferdinand, reflecting that the kingdoms still remained distinct.

But Isabella’s grant to Columbus had long-term consequences for the whole of Spain and the world. A Spain that was united and no longer focused on ending the 700-year Moor presence in Iberia could afford to turn its gaze outward. Columbus’ discoveries opened an era of exploration. He was followed to the New World by the conquistadors who defeated great native empires in Central and South America. The first permanent European settlement in the continental United States was established by Spain in St. Augustine, Florida. For a time, the Spanish Empire was the most powerful in the world. Long after its decline, Spain held onto some of its far-flung territory until 1898, when it lost most of the remnants to another rising power: the United States. In the following century, Spain suffered civil war and dictatorship, traumas that fueled Catalonia’s drive to independence.

Spain’s unification changed the world, and its breakup could, too. Secessionist movements in other countries would be emboldened if Catalonia wins independence. An independent Catalonia would add to the challenges already facing the European Union.

Trends that incorporated Catalonia into Spain helped lead to the voyages of Columbus, the exploration of the Western Hemisphere, and the birth of the United States, surely outcomes not imagined when the count of Barcelona married into the House of Aragon in 1137.

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