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 death knell?
- 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 need one 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."