Finish the Kitchen: Stand Strong on Health Care Reform

04/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Rep. Jay Inslee Jay Inslee is the Democratic candidate for governor in Washington state.

Contrary to some reports, health care is not dead.

The Democratic loss in Massachusetts did not change the fact that health care inflation is dangerously sandbagging our economy, and it didn't change the fact that tens of millions of Americans remain uninsured.

Right after the Massachusetts election, I had a chance to speak to the House Democratic Congressional Caucus. Members were anxious, frustrated, and generally pessimistic about the loss and what it meant for all of our major policy plans, especially for health care reform.
I started by telling them what not passing health care reform could cost us -- because I know what, in no small part, it cost us in 1994: Our majority in Congress, the opportunity to pass many of our policy priorities, and, incidentally, my re-election. More importantly, we missed an opportunity to reign in the ballooning cost of health care that is crippling U.S. employers, stagnating wages, and skyrocketing our national debt. But, most of all, not passing health care reform when we had the chance cost us the rare opportunity to help millions of Americans on one of the issues they struggle with most.

And, I'll tell you now what I told them next: "Finish the Kitchen."

I told my colleagues a story that I think illustrates where we are now.

Ten years ago, my family started a renovation of our kitchen. It was supposed to be an easy job, but it quickly became one problem after another, with endless delays. It seemed hopeless. We grew frustrated, angry at my contractor, generally pessimistic about the project, and felt like giving up.

But then the kitchen was finally finished. Now we bake bread in that kitchen, cook great meals in that kitchen, and have even had beers with the contractor in that kitchen. None of that would have been possible if we hadn't finished the kitchen.

The same thing is true with health care -- if we give up now, even if the bill isn't perfect, we give up the chance to help millions of Americans and we give up the chance to improve upon it.

I know what it will cost the American people if we don't pass health care reform now, because I know what it cost them then.

We have slogged through several months now where the pundits and the naysayers have been telling us all the reasons we can't do health care reform, or at least we can't do it right. Seemingly, the facts that strong bills have already passed both the House and the Senate, and that we still hold the majorities to get this bill finished, have slipped these folks' minds.

But I'm heartened, this week, to see the momentum swinging back -- away from the naysayers, and towards those of us eager to get something done.

This week President Obama is bringing House and Senate leaders, Democratic and Republican, together on national television to talk through the health care proposals, find common ground where we can, and move us closer to final passage. Furthermore, strong Democrats in the Senate are finally standing up and following the House lead in calling for the inclusion of the Public Option in the reconciliation process. The Public Health Insurance Option is a provision I fought hard for in the House, and I am pleased that now more than 23 Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have joined the call. This is a critical and encouraging development because not only will the addition of the public option to health care reform make the bill stronger, it will give the reconciliation process a clearer path toward victory.

One of the most dangerous things you can do in politics is to assume the fetal position. We simply can't back down to the Republicans' scorched-earth tactics. We need to "Finish the Kitchen." We need to pass the health care reform bill.