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Sometimes, Congress can work together

A story in Wednesday’s Mail Tribune described concerns that Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has about the current state of our nation, and specifically about the policies pushed by the Trump administration. We share those concerns over such things as assaults on access to health care (potentially affecting 130 million people) and the incredibly misguided practice of separating children from parents arrested while trying to cross the border.

But there was another piece to Wyden’s conversation (which is available on the Mail Tribune FaceBook page through a FaceBook Live video). It was a ray of hope, a glimmer that maybe, one day, our nation’s leaders will once again put policies ahead of politics.

Asked if there’s any evidence of bipartisanship left in Washington, D.C., Wyden rose to the defense of Congress and particularly noted a pair of issues that have brought R’s and D’s together.

In the strange-bedfellows category, Oregon’s liberal senator noted that he teamed up with the conservative majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, to author a bill, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which would legalize hemp, define it as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances. That would allow the nationwide production of hemp for use as a fiber in clothing and elsewhere and as a source of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-intoxicant that’s being used to help control seizures, particularly in children.

Sen. Rand Paul, who like his fellow Republican McConnell represents the agricultural state of Kentucky, joined in the bipartisan effort, which has been approved by the Senate.

Wyden and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley were also of like minds, though not like parties, with Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in co-authoring the Wildland Fires Act of 2017, which separates the funding for fire prevention and firefighting and provides more money for fighting major blazes. Past practices resulted in fire prevention funds being raided to pay for the cost of firefighting, which perpetuated the threat wildfires pose to forests and communities. The bill was approved by both houses and signed by the president.

Both of those bills played to issues in specific states, which contributed to the bipartisanship. They also stood in contrast to the administration’s approach on states’ issues, with Wyden noting, “They’re for states’ rights when they think the state is right.”

Nevertheless, when asked if he was optimistic about Democrats’ chances in November, Wyden said he wakes up optimistic. With the regular chaos raining from the White House, that takes some doing, and we have no doubt that our senator’s naturally cheerful disposition often diminishes during the day.

But he gives us hope that there will be a better tomorrow, that our elected leaders will remember that they’re there to represent all people, not just the extremes, and that their efforts should be focused not on their parties, but on their country.