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"I Would Be Interested" [in Running for Governor], and Other Quotes from Rep. Jay Inslee

By Josh Feit June 29, 2009

Fresh off his big win in Washington, D.C.—the climate change bill passed the House on Friday—Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA, 1), a star player on the energy committee and a co-author of the bill, returned to Washington State this week and took time this morning to meet with PubliCola.

We met at the Downtown Cups coffee shop right by the ferry terminal on Marion St.

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Rep. Jay Inslee sits down for coffee with PubliCola

For starters, I asked Rep. Inslee to address the biggest criticism of the climate change bill— a bulk of permits in the cap and trade equation are being given away for free to energy-intensive industries like steel production and paper products, and to utilities. Inslee, in fact, was the main proponent of the provision to give 15 percent to energy-intensive industries.

Here's what Rep. Inslee said: "I can do math. To do this, we had to get 218 votes. We were writing a bill not a piece of poetry. And we had a moral obligation to pass a bill this year. We've only got one year of the first year of Barack Obama. I was intent on passing the most aggressive bill we could pass right now. Well, it's a big country. There are  representatives from Virginia and Tennessee, and they all have votes. It was absolutely necessary [to give free credits to industries that might otherwise have to raise energy rates.]"

Inslee also dressed me down for pointing out in an earlier post that paper industry giant Weyerhaeuser (one recipient of the credits) was a big Inslee contributor. I told him I would have been derelict if I had not reported that. He said, "You would have been derelict if there was a kernel of truth to [the allegation that Weyerhaeuser's contributions played any role in the provision.] I have lived this subject for four years. I've written a book on it. I wake up every morning thinking about how we are going to pass this planet off to our grandchildren."

While Inslee says if he was "the emperor or the king or even the President" he would have crafted a different bill ("People who have criticisms of the bill need to [take their place] in line behind me"), he says he is proud of the compromises in the legislation. He says the "first success" was a deal he struck with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA, 14) from the Rust Belt, guaranteeing 15 percent of the permits would go to  industries that are threatened by overseas competition—so that Rep. Doyle could promise his constituents their jobs wouldn't be shipped off to China, where there isn't a cap and trade system.

"We had to win the confidence of people in the Rust Belt," Inslee says. "And it was also the right thing to do, to protect jobs."

We also talked about the pending debate over health care reform. Inslee says he supports the public option, which would allow health care consumers to get insurance through the government. "There's no reason to shackle the government from doing what it does best," he says. "Witness Medicare."

Addressing conservative critics who see government health care as the first step toward socialized medicine, Inslee says: "These people see Medicare as socialism. That's where they're coming from. I'm not kidding." And he adds, "Choice is important. The public option lets people have a variety of options."

Inslee says he's working on tightening up two other aspects of the health care bill. He has legislation to strike a compromise between name-brand and generic brand drugs—giving 12 years of protection to the "intellectual data" for the companies that originally introduce the drugs. Currently, patented drugs are protected for 20 years. (Inslee says 12 years is the time it takes to make the investment back.) Rep. Henry Waxman (D-30, CA) has a bill that would limit the patented protection to five years. The pharmaceutical and healthcare products industry is Inslee's number three contributor—$4,250 out of  $35,000 raised in the latest cycle according to Open Secrets.

The other issue Rep. Inslee is pushing in health care reform is containing costs by taking the cue from measures that have worked in Washington State: Bundled care, where patients pay based on success rather than for each individual treatment, i.e fee for service; team-based health care, where a group of care givers—such as docs, nurses, and therapists, coordinate care; and evidence-based care. Inslee also wants to lower costs for workers who have healthy lifestyles by mimicking King County's "Healthy Incentives" plan.

Finally, I asked Rep. Inslee to address the persistent chatter that he's running for governor in 2012. Inslee says he's focused on getting reelected to Congress and the energy bill.  However, he said that if Gov. Christine Gregoire decides not to run again, "I would be interested."

[Editor's Note: I also asked Inslee about his experiences with President Obama. I will post separately about that.]

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