Nelson Open to Reconciliation to Pass Health Reform

Posted February 26, 2010 at 12:47pm

Sen. Ben Nelson (D) on Friday told a Nebraska radio station that he’s open to voting for a health care reform package under reconciliation.

Democratic leaders are considering using reconciliation rules to bypass a Republican filibuster of the House and Senate health care bills that were approved late last year. Nelson said he would not on principle oppose a reconciliation package, although he conceded it is not his first choice.

“We’ll have to see what the final package is, and I’ll make a decision,” Nelson told KLIN in Lincoln. “I don’t know what the final cost is. I worry that it’s now up to $950 billion. I’d like to see a final score, see what it is and make a decision then.”

Nelson, who represents a solidly Republican state, has suffered in public opinion polls for supporting President Barack Obama’s health care reform agenda. But he has steadfastly defended his vote and declined to back away from it.

Democratic leaders and the president were on the cusp of reconciling competing House and Senate health care packages in January. But their budding agreement was derailed by the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the Massachusetts special election, giving the Republican Conference the extra vote it needed to sustain a filibuster.

Reconciliation may be the Democrats’ only hope of passing some form of their health care reform agenda this year.

“I’m not going to use reconciliation as a principle to be against this. It’s my least favorite way to do something. It’s only after everything else fails, when there’s obstruction going on,” Nelson said.

Nelson also said during his radio interview that he is in talks with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to revive their small-business health care bill.