Given just how little actually happens in Congress, and how many good bills die for no apparent reason, it's easy to get a little cynical about what's possible in the area of federal legislation.
Once in a while, though, a good idea actually passes. Take this afternoon, for example.
The House on Tuesday passed legislation to help prevent suicides of people who served in the military.Passed by voice vote, the bill would require a third party to conduct an annual evaluation of suicide prevention programs at the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and Defense Department.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), and enjoyed the enthusiastic support of veterans' groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). There is no roll call to link to because support was broad enough that the bill passed by voice vote.
To be sure, this wasn't the highest-profile legislation to be taken up this year, and there wasn't much of a lobbying campaign against it, but when worthwhile bills, which will make a real difference in the lives of people who deserve our support, are able to advance in this Congress, it's cause for some relief.
And the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act is a worthwhile bill.
Rachel did a segment on this back in mid-November, which is worth watching if you missed it. The legislation is named after Clay Hunt, a Marine corporal from outside Houston, Texas, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. After his tours, Hunt got involved in helping other veterans, and even volunteered to help the relief effort after the huge earthquake in Haiti in 2009.
Hunt, who was shot during his Iraq service, was also diagnosed with PTSD, and in March 2011, he took his own life. He was just 28 years old. Rachel explained in the segment:
"Twenty-two veterans a day are committing suicide. They want more psychiatrists in the V.A., independent, outside evaluation, to make veterans and Defense Department suicide programs better programs. It has a plan that they think would stop the merry-go-around of medications that vets get put on they say by the handful to instead focus on what really works."This bill is not the most expensive bill in the world, certainly not getting the most attention in the world, but it gets at this terrible problem in all the ways the veterans groups think would most help them."
There clearly isn't a lot of time remaining in the lame-duck session, but the bill enjoys broad support in the Senate, and it's expected to pass with relative ease. If all goes well, President Obama's signature won't be a problem.