Weekly Columns

Given the intense acrimony surrounding the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, it would be understandable if you missed all that Republican and Democrat senators have been able to accomplish by working together. The list has grown recently and deserves to be highlighted.

The return to regular order for appropriations bills is a perfect place to start. Passing the 12 bills that fund the government had become unmanageable given the years-long buildup of gridlock in Congress. Washington has come to the verge of government shutdown repeatedly for the past decade.

Now, under the leadership of Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice-Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), all 12 of the spending bills have been reported favorably out of the Appropriations Committee at the fastest pace in thirty years. Half of these bills have now become law.

I am pleased the bill I authored, which determines allocations for military construction projects and veterans' benefits, was among the first ones President Trump signed into law. My bill, in coordination with the legislation that funds the Department of Defense becoming law, marks the first time Congress has funded our military on time, through regular order, in a decade.

The bipartisan work isn’t focused solely on funding bills either. The Senate has come together to pass a number of measures that will help Americans get ahead in today’s economy, keep our communities safe and deliver on promises to our veterans. 

That last point, working to keep our promises to our veterans, is a particular point of pride for me. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees our veterans’ programs, I have long noted how these committees are unique in the manner in which members put aside partisan issues to help our veterans. This commitment extends to the full Senate, which approved a landmark bill that improves the Department of Veterans Affairs current healthcare delivery system by providing veterans with more choices and fewer barriers to care.

During the 115th Congress, the Senate has also passed bipartisan legislation that will help our economy continue to grow, including enacting a law that invests in career and technical education programs to help Americans get the skills they need to succeed in a modern economy, as well as passage of critical bills to reauthorize the Farm Bill and the Water Resources Development Act.

Republicans and Democrats have come together to pass legislation to strengthen the federal response to our nation’s opioid crisis by expanding prevention efforts, empowering law enforcement and increasing access to treatment. We have taken threats from Iran, North Korea and Russia head-on with tough sanctions and also enacted a new law to combat sex trafficking.

We’ve worked together to address issues in our health care system, reauthorizing an essential program that provides low-cost health coverage to children and passing legislation to prevent health insurers and drug companies from masking the lowest possible cost of prescription drugs.

The country is divided. Media coverage of the Senate reflects that in many ways, but the stories you don’t see as often paint a different picture. We can get a great deal accomplished when we work together. I hope we continue to proceed in that direction.