Nelson Will Vote to Begin Debate on Health Bill

Posted November 20, 2009 at 11:44am

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) ended weeks of speculation by announcing Friday that he will vote to start debate on the Senate’s health care reform measure when the roll is called Saturday evening.“Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct. That’s what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about,— Nelson said in a statement. “It is not for or against the new Senate health care bill released Wednesday.—A united Republican Conference is attempting to mount a filibuster of the motion to proceed to the recently unveiled $848 billion health care bill, an effort that, if successful, would prevent the measure from being debated or amended on the floor. During the 8 p.m. vote Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs the votes of all 60 members of the Democratic Conference to overcome the filibuster because three-fifths of the Senate is needed to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on the motion to proceed to the health care measure.Nelson is the first of three wavering centrist Democrats, including Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), to announce his intentions.Nelson has previously threatened to filibuster the bill if he does not see changes to various provisions he opposes, including language on federal funding of abortion and the creation of a public health insurance option. He explained his decision by saying his vote “is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements. If you don’t like a bill why block your own opportunity to amend it?—Nelson said he wanted to avoid a scenario where his vote forced Democratic leaders to use controversial budget reconciliation rules, under which filibusters are not possible and passage can be achieved by a simple majority vote.“As we have seen before, obstructionists are inviting a move toward reconciliation by opposing this first procedural vote,— Nelson said. “Let’s be clear. That route shrinks debate and amendments, eliminates bipartisanship and needs only 50 votes to pass a bill. In the end, far more Washington-run health care policies win, but Nebraskans lose.—He also noted that he does support “parts of the bill and oppose others I will work to fix. If that’s not possible, I will oppose the second cloture motion — needing 60 votes — to end debate, and oppose the final bill.—