Using Bikes To Promote Bipartisanship

Posted November 14, 2012 at 7:10pm

For years, I’ve traveled the country preaching “bike-partisanship” — using bike (and pedestrian) facilities to help people burn calories instead of fossil fuel, improve their health, have fun and enrich the community. Red State, Blue State, Republican, Democrat or independent, it doesn’t matter. The public gets it, and has been part of an amazing renaissance in communities large and small.

This Congress, let’s redouble our efforts at creating a stronger federal partnership to help more communities realize this vision.

But let’s not stop with bike-partisanship.

What about rebuilding and renewing America? Until last year, even in the most intense political climates, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was usually an island of consensus. Since we merely extended the last transportation reauthorization, and this new Congress must act on it in 100 weeks, let’s work on a bolder vision of investing in America. Let’s put people to work, improve the environment, strengthen communities, jump-start the economy and save money in the long term.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Congress can’t ignore the need to deal with a near-bankrupt flood insurance program. While we fix the short-term problems, let’s make it more effective and efficient. An actuarially sound, well-designed and implemented flood insurance program will spare lives, property and the federal treasury.

Based on work I’ve done in the past with Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen.-elect Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on agricultural reform, this looks like a ripe opportunity. Taxpayers cannot afford to lavish subsidies on large agribusiness while harming the environment and shortchanging small farmers and ranchers. Tea party Republicans and members of the Progressive Caucus surely can come together on this issue that will improve nutrition, wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing, while strengthening family farmers.

Since Big Bird dodged a bullet during the presidential campaign, it’s time to address the vital role that federal support for public broadcasting plays. We all rely on public broadcasting for news and information as well as education for kids and, as illustrated during Hurricane Sandy, emergency preparedness. With broad support from Americans, Congress should make a long-term financial commitment to funding the most trusted broadcasting institution so it can plan confidently for the future.

The last 10 years have been characterized by significant bipartisan cooperation on promoting safe drinking water and sanitation around the globe. The 2005 legislation written by the late Rep. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., former Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has saved lives and made friends for America around the world.

This Congress, we have another bipartisan water bill co-sponsored with Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, that would build on that foundation and accelerate progress. It is teed up and ready to go. With bipartisan momentum and embraced by members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, this legislation could easily be passed next week.

Eighty-six percent of Americans think getting full information about their situation as a loved one nears the end of life should be a top priority. Before the controversy over “death panels” overshadowed it, a provision in the 2010 health care law requiring dissemination of such information enjoyed bipartisan backing. Almost no one is opposed to the objective, and new legislation could be passed easily now that we’re implementing the health care law.

These are all bipartisan initiatives overwhelmingly embraced by the public, and they save tax dollars. Is it perhaps time to have a Legislator’s Caucus, where members in both parties who just want to get something done can come together with ideas like these? Concentrating on “second tier” issues that don’t have to be controversial or expensive would have significant effect.

Who knows? Working together to get something done might become habit-forming.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is a member of the Ways and Means and Budget committees.