Congress returns in likely need of bipartisanship, touting previous wins for vets, kids with cancer

Congress so far this session has passed 55 bills that have been signed into law including dozens with bipartisan support, from sanctioning North Korea to reauthorizing the FDA, allowing the agency to continue to collect outside funding for medical research and offer more hope to children with cancer.

Among the 28 bills passed with bipartisan support are the cancer-related RACE for Children Act and the Veterans Education Aid measure, which was pased without a single “no” vote.

“This bipartisan bill will help … service members transition back to civilian life by opening doors for their future success," Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said about the so-called “Forever GI Bill.”

The veteran’s bill, signed into law last month by President Trump, extends educational benefits for military veterans including Guardsmen and reservists.

Members of the GOP-controlled Congress return Tuesday from August recess to face several key measures that will require tight-deadline votes and likely some measures of bipartisan support.

Among them is a request by Trump for $7.9 billion in immediate Hurricane Harvey disaster aid that appears to have solid Democratic and Republican backing.

Congress continues to face sharp criticism about its inability to pass legislation and help Americans, reflected in their most recent Gallup poll disapproval rating of 79 percent.

And while voters clamor for bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill, such collaboration can be politically challenging, considering how members risk election-year backlash from advocacy groups and high-dollar political action committees for straying from their respective party’s conservative or progressive-lean agenda.

“When it comes to health care, when it helps children, bipartisan is great. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue,” says Texas GOP Rep. Mike McCaul -- who helped lead the bipartisan effort, under the 2017 FDA Reauthorization Act, to have adult treatments for cancer studied for use in children.

Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Most Americans likely know McCaul as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, appearing on TV to occasionally deliver unflinching assessments on domestic terror threats, even calling ISIS the “standard bearer of evil.”

However, McCaul, a father of five who lost a grade-school pal to cancer, acknowledges his efforts with the RACE for Children Act, or Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act, have been more personal.

“It’s my job to protect people, but this has been emotional, rewarding,” McCaul, who started the bipartisan Childhood Cancer Caucus upon joining Congress in 2005, told Fox News on Friday. “It’s only a small part of the overall picture. But it does bring some good news to people who are hurting.”