Friday, December 18, 2009

Ben Nelson, reform killer

So. No Joe Lieberman, or not yet. And no Ben Nelson, so far.

Democrats have caved in to Lieberman, giving up not just the public option but the Medicare buy-in, and that still might not be enough, and now it's Nelson who's contradicting himself and saying he won't support the bill, mainly over federal funding for abortions, which he opposes.

It's infuriating, and I'm infuriated, so let me turn this over to my friend Steve Benen, who calmly examines the record:

Remember, literally one month ago today, CNN reported that Nelson was satisfied with the compromise language from the Senate Finance Committee. Now he's decided the Finance Committee compromise not only isn't good enough, but he's also prepared to kill health care reform over it.

What's more, let's also not forget that while Nelson isn't making any real effort to seek common ground, he's also rejecting compromises of compromises -- Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), another pro-life Dem, offered Nelson a new proposal with additional restrictions on federal financing of abortion. As of today, Nelson said the compromise on a compromise still isn't good enough, and he won't even let the Senate vote on the bill because of it.

And while we're at it, let's also not forget that just a few weeks ago, Nelson said he doesn't like the existing restrictions on abortion funding, but added, "If there's no public option, perhaps some of the [abortion] problem goes away." It suggested this wasn't the issue he was prepared to kill health care reform over. And now it is.

Indeed, as of today, Nelson sounded like he's giving up altogether. He said Democratic offers are "not enough," and suggested it might be time to go "back to the drawing board in some areas."

So now Nelson seems to be even more of a problem than Lieberman, which means that the 60th vote, if indeed Lieberman is aboard, would have to be Republican Olympia Snowe.

And if Nelson does join a Republican filibuster and seek to block the bill even from getting to the floor for a vote? At this historic moment, with historic (if hardly ideal) health-care reform legislation possibly soon to be passed, I can only hope that history will frown upon him, as it will upon the Republicans, who are decidedly on the wrong side of it and who will be remembered for having advocated for a status quo that is unjust and unfair and profoundly dysfunctional.

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