Nelson: ‘I Stuck to My Guns’ on Abortion Language

Posted December 24, 2009 at 8:14am

Under attack from Republicans, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Thursday used the Senate floor to once again defend his role in passing Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) heath care reform bill.Nelson, whose last-minute agreement with Reid on abortion language last week cleared the way for final passage, strongly defended the anti-abortion provisions in the bill.“I want to be clear: I stuck to my guns and stood for my pro-life principles. I did not look for weaker language. I looked for clearer language,— Nelson said, adding that “my goal stayed the same, too: to maintain the standard that we’ve had in federal law since the mid-1970s.—Nelson inserted language in the reform bill placing strict restrictions on abortion that were designed to maintain the Hyde Amendment prohibitions on federal funding of the procedure.Nelson’s floor speech appeared to be in direct response to criticism leveled against the deal by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), one of the chamber’s staunchest anti-abortion lawmakers. Brownback says Nelson’s language is weaker than both Hyde and provisions in the House-passed health care bill.“While I respect the Senator from Kansas’ opinion, I have to respectfully disagree. The Senate language fully upholds the Hyde principle,— Nelson said, explaining that while the “wording may be different— from the House language “the principle is in fact upheld.—Earlier this week, Nelson also found himself defending the “Cornhusker Kickback— – a package of provisions Nelson won that would benefit his home state, including a requirement that the federal government pay for the state’s Medicaid program.That Nelson felt it necessary to make a floor statement following Thursday’s 60-39 vote to pass the Reid bill underscores the pressure being applied to the Nebraskan. Nebraska Right To Life, national anti-abortion organizations and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have all condemned Nelson’s provisions, and Republicans have been running ads in his home state attacking the deal.