The question on everyone's mind today is what went wrong in Massachusetts? The tea leaf-reading and hand wringing will no doubt monopolize much of Washington's time over the coming days and weeks. But there's a better question for today: What's the path forward to passing meaningful health insurance reform?
For Pat Dejong and the millions of working families like her's across the country, today is no different than yesterday when a Democratic senator held Ted Kennedy's old seat. Pat DeJong will still wake up in Libby, Montana. She'll still mourn the loss of her husband and the family ranch they lost because of his medical bills. And, Pat will still go to the bedside of her patients each day, still lacking coverage of her own.
So what's next for Pat? What's next for a country frustrated by leaders who seem to be governing out of timidity versus conviction?
Step one: The House should pass the Senate's health insurance reform bill - with an agreement that it will be fixed, fixed right, and fixed right away through a parallel process.
Reform can work -- the Senate bill can serve as the foundation for reform and include at minimum the improvements the Administration, House, and Senate have negotiated. We cannot squander the opportunity to make real progress. The House and Senate must move forward together. And, there is no reason they cannot move forward together to make those changes through any means possible -- whether through reconciliation or other pieces of moving legislation.
Some in Washington may want to throw their hands up and walk away; others may call for walking back reform by passing something smaller. So let's just say it: the Democrats own health reform. They own the votes they already took. And, they own what health reform will stand for. Most importantly, it will be a major achievement the American people need and deserve. There is no turning back. There is no running away. There is no reset button.
There is a right choice: Break the political paralysis and go big. Giving up or scaling back reform is not an option. It's not an option for our employers. It's not an option for our deficit. And, it is certainly not an option for the millions across this country like Pat DeJong who are crying out for real change. It's simply not an option for our country's future. It's time to deliver the change that the people of our country voted for in 2008 and Massachusetts voted for last night.
Let's not overcomplicate the process, let's just make it happen. Because we cannot pause or take a step back - we have only one choice: move forward with real reform decisively and right now.
For more information about SEIU's programs and initiatives to help working families, visit SEIU.org.
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