Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Tester’s bipartisan efforts serving our veterans

The New York Times published a story recently about a rare and little-noticed sector of Congress that seems to be working the way it was intended. The story told of how veterans’ affairs committees in the House and the Senate have been quietly writing bipartisan legislation relative to the welfare of veterans.

The Times piece told of how compromises were reached on ideological differences, legislation was amended accordingly and bills are being sent to the floor of each chamber, where they are passed and sent on the president to sign.

Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester — as the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — was singled out as a key player in these successes. And he is commended for serving as an example of how members of Congress can work with colleagues across the aisle.

The author of the analytical piece acknowledged that things could get stickier as the committees got to more contentious issues — like the Veterans Choice Program, which was adopted quickly after it was reported veterans had to endure scandalous wait times for treatment. The program allows veterans in these situations to step outside veterans’ health care system and get treatment from health providers in their communities. It is an expensive program that has not worked well and efforts to fix its flaws will likely meet resistance.

But these committees are proving that Congress can move forward through compromise — the willingness to give up something when the opposition is willing to do the same.

This stands in stark contrast to Congress as a whole. There, efforts to improve the health care system are stalled because those efforts don’t seem to be about improving things at all. Unfortunately, they seem to more about “winning” and less about what is a reasonable solution that can best serve our country.

Similar kinds of ideology have paralyzed Congress on simplifying the tax code, immigration reform and other major issues. And, to be clear, this isn’t a recent development.

Tester, however, is doing veterans and all his constituents a favor by showing that compromise is not a dirty word. It’s a way of moving forward in a way that gives opposing interests something, just not everything.

The rest of Congress could learn from the work of these two committees.