“I am especially pleased to have had the privilege of presiding over the House when it passed the historic health insurance reform legislation three weeks ago. I have been waiting for that moment for 41 years and its arrival – finally – made all the frustrations of public life worth it.”
– House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (WI)
Last week, we all watched and listened, a little surprised, as Appropriations Chair David Obey announced his upcoming retirement from the House of Representatives. A tireless public servant for nearly 50 years, Chairman Obey has served in the House since 1969 – longer than anyone in Wisconsin history. During his tenure on the House Appropriations Committee- first as Chair, then Ranking Member and now Chair again, health centers have experienced unprecedented and unparalleled growth. Chairman Obey’s support has been a driving force of that expansion.
In a moving statement , Chairman Obey said that he came to Washington to do three things: to make our economic system more fair for poor and middle class working families, to expand federal support for education, and to make it possible for Americans to receive quality health care. Through the years he has undoubtedly achieved all of these goals
Over the last decade, he was an ardent supporter of the bipartisan doubling of the Health Center program. Last year, he was the lead writer of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), which pumped desperately needed investment into our economy during the deepest financial collapse we’ve seen in 70 years. If your health center was able to make it through the last year thanks to the ARRA Increased Demand for Services (IDS) funding, Chairman Obey deserves a big part of the thanks. Chairman Obey also presided over the House as Congress passed landmark health care reform legislation this year, which will, within a few years’ time, ensure that nearly all those in this country have access to affordable, quality health care.
Health centers owe Chairman Obey a lot, and we are deeply grateful for all of the ways he advocated for our program and our patients. From the investments in health centers in health reform and ARRA to the investments Congress makes in the Health Center Program each year, Chairman Obey has always understood the benefits that community health centers bring to their patients, to their communities, and to the federal government. He’s seen first-hand, over and over again, the care we provide and he believes in our mission and in our success. Today we stand in thanks and in admiration of the Chairman who has, for so long, fought to ensure that community health centers have the resources to provide a comprehensive health center home to our current 20 million patients in 8,000 communities, and to the millions more who will be covered through health reform.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You have done so much for us. And you will be missed.