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Earl B.
Democrat OR 3

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  • Bipartisanship and End of Life Care

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2015-01-08

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    BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, as we begin the new Congress, America sees the two parties in both the House and the Senate, along with the White House, making statements that establish positions that distinguish one from another.

    But what if we started not by defining our differences but with efforts that would bring us together? We ended the last Congress with the passage of the Paul Simon Water for the World Act, something I have worked on with my friend and partner from Texas, Ted Poe, for years here in the House. There was extraordinary bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Congressmen Charlie Dent, Aaron Schock, Senator Dick Durbin. It did take 6 years, but this bipartisan effort for a humanitarian cause, especially benefiting women and girls around the globe, was worth the time and effort.

    The legislation focused and enhanced American efforts dealing with international water and sanitation. Today 152 million hours will be spent by women and girls traveling to get water, often dirty water, to meet the needs of their families in some of the poorest regions of the planet.

    This legislation created more focused American leadership, and it was backed up by unprecedented increases in American aid for water and sanitation. It will pay benefits for generations to come for millions, making friends for America while it allows children to live longer and makes the lives of women and girls more bearable. And we did it together.

    Are there other such candidates for legislation that will bring us together? Dr. Phil Roe and I have been working on the Personalize Your Care Act with medical groups, advocacy organizations, experts in palliative care, hospitals, the community of faith.

    This is an effort to make sure that at the end of life for our loved ones, they actually get the treatment they want, not health care on autopilot.

    We have had tragic stories about how medical decisions by reflex and default have put people in isolated ICUs in painful and foreign settings when actually most of them, and in fact most of us, would rather be comfortable at home, surrounded by our loved ones.

    [[Page H109]] {time} 1015 There has been a brilliant and exhaustive report by the Institute of Medicine that deals with the problems and concerns and how we can do better. Dr. Atul Gawande's bestselling book, ``Being Mortal,'' makes it clear that there are crying needs and simple, commonsense compassionate solutions.

    There is a revolution taking place in health care today. What if, as part of that revolution, Congress started the new year with our bipartisan legislation, the Personalize Your Care Act, to make sure those families understand their choices, that their choices are known, and--most important--their choices are respected? We had dozens of cosponsors and broad support across the medical establishment and the community of faith. Maybe we can pick up where we left off and have this legislation bring us together to protect our families and start the year on a united front, giving families the protection they want for the care they need.

    There is no reason we in Congress need to spin our wheels and shout at and past each other. Mr. Speaker, I could have made this same presentation not about the water and sanitation, but about how this Congress came together in the final hours to help save the lives of Afghans and Iraqis who are now at risk from the tender mercies of the Taliban and al Qaeda because they helped Americans as guides and interpreters when we needed them.

    These are some of my examples of bipartisan cooperation that are important which we have done in the past. I would invite my colleagues to share their agenda of bipartisan, low or no-cost legislation that allows us to work together.

    It is not too late to start the year and this Congress right.


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