The health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating for millions of Americans. Although Congress took action to help provide relief to families across the nation, the pandemic has exposed serious flaws in federal programs meant to help our most vulnerable.
The fact is too many Americans were struggling even before COVID-19 and this pandemic has underscored the need for improvements to some of our most vital programs. Now, Congress must implement fiscally responsible, long-term policies that will lift up our nation and give working families a fair shot — and the reconciliation process gives us the opportunity to do just that.
Unfortunately, like so many other things in Washington, the process has become far too political. We have a responsibility to set partisanship aside and come together to have tough conversations about what policies will — and won’t — serve the best interests of our nation. This means passing legislation that establishes a long-term plan for funding critical programs.
All too often, Congress has taken the easy way out. Rather than put in place permanent federal programs that help our communities and our economy, we continue to kick the can down the road and pass short-term stop gap measures. Funding programs for two to three years at a time only creates uncertainty and unnecessary fiscal “cliffs.” That's why we need to limit the number of programs included in the legislation in order to fund them properly and ensure their stability well into the future. This approach would be far more impactful on the lives of Americans than putting in place too many short-term programs that are inadequately funded and poorly executed.
We ran into these same challenges with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. While a historic piece of legislation that expanded access to crucial health care services for millions of Americans, the ACA was drastically underfunded and access to affordable health insurance remained out of reach for many Americans. We tried to do too much with too little, and as a result, it took ten years to get this critical program on solid footing through the passage of the American Rescue Plan. Congress should learn from our past mistakes and make the right choices now so we don't keep passing the buck onto future generations. That is why I and many of my colleagues in the New Democrat Coalition are pushing to finish the job on the ACA by making permanent the premium subsidies and reaching everyone eligible through Medicaid expansion.
We now have a chance to address big issues like access to quality affordable health care, climate change, and childhood poverty that have affected so many people across this country. Rather than waste this opportunity by doing too much too fast, we need to learn from the past and focus on implementing sustainable policies that create long-term solutions to the toughest challenges we face.
By working together, we can pass legislation that will have a meaningful impact on the lives of all Americans for years to come.
Kind represents Washington’s 3rd District and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.