Sen. Ben Nelson, the conservative Democrat from Nebraska, told
reporters Tuesday that he may not support health care reform as it
stands now. With one vote the difference between passing and failing--recall that earlier this week Democrats killed the public option to win
Sen. Joe Lieberman's vote--could the loss of Nelson could be reform's
- Replacing Nelson's Vote Washington Monthly's Steve Benen calls
Nelson "the [Democratic] caucus' most conservative member." Benen
writes, "If Nelson backs the Republican filibuster, Democrats would
GOP senator to break ranks in order to even have a vote on health care
reform. [...] that leaves Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who has been
talking to Reid,
but who seems -- for unknown reasons -- to want to push off a vote
until 2010. Snowe did, however, vote for the Finance Committee bill,
and there's still reason to believe her vote is at least in play."
- All About Abortion The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn writes, "On Capitol Hill, operatives and staff have said all along that Nelson,
not Lieberman, would be the most difficult member of the caucus to win
over. And his primary focus is abortion, although he has other
concerns, as well." Cohn adds, "The great advantage of recruiting Snowe is that she supports abortion
rights. Remember, she joined the majority of Democrats in voting
against Nelson's amendment that would have introduced language
prohibiting the coverage of abortion services within the new insurance
exchanges. (Collins did, too.) That would actually produce a bill more
liberal than the House alternative, at least on this one issue, with
the differences to be settled in conference."
- Will White House Threaten Nelson? Powerline's Paul Mirengoff speculates. "It is rumored that the White House has threatened to place Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska on the BRAC list
if Nelson doesn't fall into line. The base is a massive employer in
Southeastern Nebraska, so its closure would be a huge blow to Nelson
and his state. However, according to John Noonan,
Offut Air Force Base is arguably the most important military
installation in the continental United States, and its closure would
constitute the single largest shakeup to our nation's nuclear command
and control infrastructure in history." Nelson's spokesman denies that such threats have been made.
What's Nelson's Price? The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti wonders. "In all likelihood, assurances that Offutt Air Force Base won't be
closed, and that tax dollars won't be used to pay for abortions, will
be necessary but not sufficient to gain Nelson's approval. Reid gave Mary Landrieu hundreds of millions in Medicaid dollars to secure her vote to debate the health care bill. How much will he give Nelson to vote to end the debate?"
Let's Hope Nelson Doesn't Get It Marcy Wheeler argues
that the health care reform plan under consideration "will be a
significant step further on our road to neo-feudalism." She doesn't
like any of it, but she takes time to mention Nelson's pro-life
provisions. "And, finally, while the Senate bill does not accord these
corporate CEOs a droit de seigneur-the right to a woman's virginity the night of her marriage-if Ben Nelson
(and [Rep.] Bart Stupak) get their way, it would make a distinction in this
entire compact for how the property of a woman's womb shall be treated."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.