Bipartisan cooperation still exists in Congress

Sen. Joni Ernst is showing that it can achieve much for our nation

Anyone who pays even a little attention to the political climate in our nation knows that in Congress there are strong ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats. This divide makes it difficult for consensus to emerge in many policy areas. Unfortunately, many policy decisions that our nation needs aren’t being made. All too often, stalemate seems to be the default position in Washington.

Fortunately, there are members of both parties who try hard to find areas where bipartisan forward movement is possible. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst is one of those dedicated public servants. A good example of her commitment to finding areas where cooperation across the aisle is possible is the Iowa Republican’s co-sponsorship with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., of the Blast Pressure Exposure Study Improvement Act.

The two senators don’t share much common ground politically. Warren is one of the most left-leaning members of the U.S. Senate and is a Democratic presidential candidate. Ernst is a conservative who is an important part of the Republican leadership team in the Senate.

Despite these major differences, the two have partnered to champion this legislation because they realize that finding improved prevention and treatment approaches for traumatic brain injury, usually referred to as TBI is a critical national priority.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in a great many service members and veterans who have the diagnosis of TBI. Use by our enemies of improvised explosive devices has increased the number of these injuries. According to information provided by Ernst’s office, 380,000 service personnel have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000.

“During combat and in training, many of our men and women in uniform are exposed to blasts which can lead to conditions like traumatic brain injury (TBI),” Ernst said in her explanation of what she and Warren hope to achieve with this legislation. “Last year, Sen. Warren and I asked Department of Defense to take a hard look at the effects of blast pressure exposure; and today, we’re building on our effort to ensure we have the necessary information to better care for our service members and help mitigate these types of injuries.”

The legislation recognizes the importance of following the progress of individuals with TBI and supports ongoing studies tracking their care and recovery. It requires more frequent progress reports from the Defense Department regarding an ongoing longitudinal study and adds two feasibility assessments to the study underway. The senators hope to stimulate better information collection about TBI and want data from research better linked to patient records.

This important bipartisan initiative deserves strong support in Congress. We applaud Ernst for choosing to work closely with Warren on this important matter despite their very significant ideological differences on so many other things. It illustrates that even in a nearly deadlocked Washington significant opportunities still exist for cooperation.

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