Vote on Veterans Administration can open door to more

In an unexpected – and exceedingly rare – display of inside-the-Beltway cooperation, the U.S. House and Senate last week approved legislation that included a significant infusion of cash to refurbish the Veterans Affairs Department and improve veterans’ health care.

The Associated Press reported that the measure included $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff and about $1.3 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

AP noted that congressional budget analysts estimated the bill would cost about $16.3 billion over three years, slightly less than a $17 billion estimate provided by the bill’s sponsors.

In this writing, we’d like to make two points: In no particular order, our representatives in Washington deserve a pat on the back for a job well done. Recent revelations about the trouble within the VA health care system made the vote a near no brainer. That said, doing even obvious and easy things is hard in Washington.

Our second point is more complicated. Why not use the VA vote as a springboard to more, and greater cooperation on other important issues? There are lots of them out there: Immigration comes to mind. So does fixing the nation’s infrastructure or reforming the Defense Department or figuring out what to do about nuclear waste.

If our elected officials can do it once, we believe there is cause for hope. But it takes leadership and a suspension of political partisanship.

Any takers?