When it comes to health care reform -- when it comes to lowering costs and finally doing something about the millions of people in this country who live just one medical emergency away from financial ruin -- "no" is not a serious response.
So when John King from CNN asked me if I would vote for health care reform, even if it meant losing my job, it was easy for me to answer.
I said "Yes."
There is no reason we should buy the political scare tactics of opponents who say supporting health care reform is a one-way ticket out of office.
I'm not a career politician, so the ways of Washington may be a little obscure to me. But in my conversations across Colorado, people tell me they want results, not rhetoric, from their representatives. So maybe a few more one-word answers and a little less political-speak is exactly what people want.
There is simply no way we are going to make progress on the enormous challenges we face without making hard choices. It's impossible. I'm reminded of the time when, as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, we were faced with the difficult task of closing schools that were underperforming or virtually empty. We were spending our money not on kids, but on empty space, as we had been doing for years.
It wasn't the politically popular thing to do, but we moved forward because we knew it was the right thing to do for our kids. We pushed ahead, we held meetings, talked to the community, and did our best to explain why allowing these schools to stay open was the moral equivalent of accepting failure for our kids. And, when it was over, most people supported the change.
Health care is much the same -- the status quo is, by all measures, failing far too many people -- and we must not shrink from the challenge.
If we are serious, there is no doubt that we can pass a health care bill that gets costs under control, helps to reduce the deficit, and provides quality, affordable choices for all Americans.
I've visited all of Colorado's 64 counties, and held town halls across the state to discuss health care reform. In every county, people have shared horror stories -- from small business owners struggling to cover their employees to families confronted with impossible choices as insurance companies drop coverage from their loved ones when they get sick. People are asking for help -- and leadership.
Our failure to provide adequate health coverage isn't just bad for families -- or for business owners who see their employees as family -- it's bad for business. At the rate we're going, health care costs will eat further and further into our economy, crippling our competitiveness and stifling economic growth.
Saturday's vote was a critical step, but we are just starting what may be the most heated battles in this long fight. Those who oppose reform are desperately trying to stop it in its tracks with their outrageous and extreme attempts to sneak in irresponsible provisions, derail the bill all together, or misrepresent what is in it.
But this is a defining moment in our country's history. It's a tremendous opportunity to finally address one of the most vexing public policy problems facing this nation.
To protect our country's economic future and the health and well being of all Americans, we must find a way to rein in out-of-control costs, provide quality, affordable health care choices to all, and make outrageous insurance industry abuses a thing of the past.
What the cynics and the skeptics don't understand is that these decisions are not for the next year or the next election cycle -- they have implications for the next 50 and 100 years.
It's up to us to do what we can to ensure that generations down the line look back on this moment and say we made the hard choices, we did the hard work to build a better future for this country.
That's our cause. And now's not the time to let politics as usual, or even one person's job in Washington, stand in the way.
Michael Bennet is the junior United States Senator from Colorado. Support a strong voice for health care reform. Join Michael's 2010 campaign today at BennetForColorado.com.
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