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Kids First shows a Government that Works

April 14, 2014
Weekly Columns

Since our nation’s birth more than 237 years ago, generations of Americans have celebrated the right to hold and voice a variety of opinions and beliefs. There are few places where this reality is displayed more clearly than in the legislative process, both at home in Oklahoma and in our nation’s capital. As you might watch during floor debates, committee hearings or even during an interview on TV or radio, it can sometimes be easier to disagree than to agree. While discussion in government is important, it’s more important for that dialogue to actually lead to solutions.

Looking back over the last several months of legislative activity in Congress, I am pleased that there have been real examples of both sides finding bipartisan agreement and achieving reforms that benefit all Americans. Back in December, the joint budget conference committee, led by Chairmen Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, worked together to negotiate a two-year budget deal that passed both chambers with strong, bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama. After passage, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees used this deal as a guide for completing a bipartisan omnibus, comprised of 12 appropriations bills. Passage of the budget deal and the funding package allowed our nation to avert another shutdown and provided a sense of certainty to hardworking Americans.

Additionally, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle worked together in January to reconcile differences between the farm bills of the House and Senate through a joint conference committee. The conference report, which was supported in both chambers and signed into law by the president, was a victory for both rural and urban America.

More recently, I am pleased that both chambers and the Administration saw the value of legislation that would redirect taxpayer dollars that were being wasted to instead do some real good. For many years, I have proposed legislation that would eliminate public funding of political party conventions and presidential campaigns. At the same time, my colleague Congressman Gregg Harper had been working separately to further pediatric disease research. Last year, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor recognized the opportunity for both pieces of legislation to be enacted and implemented through a new bill: The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.

Inspired by a young girl who recently passed away from a cancerous brain tumor, Kids First addresses the wasted taxpayer dollars going toward political party conventions and redirects them to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where researchers can advance the study of pediatric diseases. This new legislation passed the House with strong bipartisan support in December, and a month later, Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Orrin Hatch announced that they would lead efforts for passage of a companion bill. By mid-March, the Senate-version of Kids First passed the upper chamber with bipartisan support and was sent to the president’s desk, where he signed it into law on April 3.

Especially in divided government, it can be easier to focus on areas of disagreement, rather than finding common ground solutions that welcome bipartisanship and actually become law. As evidenced by the recent passage of Kids First, it is possible to present legislation that is both fiscally-responsible as well as humanitarian. With these additional dollars that NIH will receive, there is new potential for researchers to discover treatments and cures that could change and save lives.

I am pleased that both chambers noticed the potential of Kids First and that the president acted quickly to sign it into law. In the days ahead, I hope that lawmakers and the Administration will continue to find areas of agreement, as often as we can, rather than focusing on our differences.