Waiting is a part of life. We wait in line at the DMV, we wait for a table at a restaurant. We wait for the elusive cable repair guy to show up at sometime between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Waiting often can't be avoided.
During my husband's battle with pancreatic cancer, waiting, however, became more than just an inconvenience. Waiting became an agonizing but unavoidable part of the fight. Waiting for test results to reveal whether or not the cancer had spread. Waiting to find out whether the chemo was working. Waiting to determine whether or not he would be healthy enough for more treatment. Waiting - in the end - for the awful moment when the suffering would end.
Waiting has certainly become part of today's legislative process - or what passes for a legislative process. We wait until the last minute to pass a continuing resolution to avoid a government shut down. We wait on even the most mundane and rudimentary jobs of Congress to be performed because the process has been paralyzed by partisanship. We wait on passing critical legislation - even when it is has wide bipartisan support - because waiting is just what we do in Washington now.
And while there are times we understand that waiting is simply a part of the process; there are other times when the stakes are too high to simply accept needless delay.
Sometimes, and for some people, waiting is more than just an inconvenience; it can be the difference between life and death.
Last year, spurred on - in part - by the tragic death of Vice President Biden's son, the issue of our government's role in finding cures for cancer and other life-threatening diseases took center stage on the Hill and in the media.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), joined by his colleague, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), shepherded the 21st Century Cures Act through the House. In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House voted by an overwhelming 344 to 77 to pass the bill intended to spur the discovery of medical cures and to speed their deliver to patients in need.
After passage in the House, the bill's cosponsors released a statement saying, "today, we took a big leap on the path to cures, but we still have much work left to do."
Fifteen months later and we are still waiting. Frankly, this is simply unacceptable.
Upton and DeGette have been tireless in their efforts to get this critical piece of legislation across the finish line. Now it is time for others to pitch in and make sure that part of this Congress' legacy is a real commitment to saving lives.
When my husband retired from Congress, after serving 18 years representing the people of northeastern Ohio, he cited the growing paralyzing partisanship as the primary motivating factor in his decision.
In a 2013 op-ed, Steve wrote,
"Running for office is not an obligation; one isn't forced to do it. And those lucky enough to be entrusted with the faith of the voters they were elected to represent have obligations that come with the office. Our nation faces serious challenges. We need men and women in Congress who are willing to get to work finding solutions. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option."
There are few challenges we face as a country that are as critical as the challenge of determining the best approach for investments in life-saving and life-extending medical research.
Steve was blessed to have had access to the absolute best doctors in the country and some of the most cutting edge medical technology that exists today. This bill wouldn't have saved Steve's life, but it most certainly can save the lives of others in the future.
After this historic election, one thing is clear – the voters are fed up with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.
When they return next week, Congress has a short window of opportunity to show voters that they have heard them loud and clear and move this vital legislation. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option, we need the White House and members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to act. It is time to stop waiting and to start saving lives.
Jennifer LaTourette is the widow of former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) who served in Congress from 1995-2013. He passed away from pancreatic cancer in August.
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.