THE BLOG
01/08/2015 07:09 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2015

Can Congress Start the Year With a Commitment to Bipartisanship?

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 past 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, Congressman Ted Poe, for years here in the House of Representatives. That bill was aided by the extraordinary bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Congressmen Charlie Dent, Aaron Schock, and Senator Dick Durbin. It took six years, but this bipartisan effort for a humanitarian cause -- especially benefiting women and girls around the globe -- was worth the time and effort.

The Paul Simon Water for the World Act strengthened American global leadership on international water and sanitation. Women and girls will spend 152 million hours today traveling to get water --often dirty water -- to meet the needs of their families in some of the poorest regions of the planet. Passage of this legislation was backed up by unprecedented increases in American foreign aid for water and sanitation. It will pay benefits for generations to come for millions, making friends for America while allowing children to live longer and makes the lives of women and girls more bearable. And Democrats and Republicans 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 legislation would make sure that at the end of life, our loved ones actually get the treatment they want, not health care on autopilot.

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

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 families understand their care choices, that their choices are known to loved ones and to their doctors, and -- most importantly -- that their choices are respected?

This legislation has dozens of bipartisan cosponsors and broad support across the medical establishment and the faith community. Maybe we can pick up where we left off and let 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 that Members of Congress need to spin our wheels and shout at, and past, each other. I could have started this same essay not about 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 Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS because they helped Americans as guides and interpreters when we needed them.

These are just some of my examples of important bipartisan cooperation that Congress has demonstrated it can achieve. 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.