Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the moderate Democrats who has not yet commited to voting on a procedural measure to bring the health care bill to the Senate floor, released an equivocal statement shortly after meeting with Reid earlier this afternoon. On the one hand, Nelson said he wanted more time to understand what he was voting on:
“Once Senator Reid releases his merged health care bill and the Congressional Budget Office fiscal analysis I and my colleagues will need adequate time—over several days—to review both. Later this week, the Senate is expected to vote on a motion to proceed, which needs 60 votes to pass. As I’ve said many times before I won’t decide how I’ll vote on the motion to proceed until I know what I’m voting on.”
On the other hand, he pushed back against the argument that Republicans have been making that providing Reid with the 60 votes he needs at any juncture of the process should be considered the same thing as a vote for the bill:
Some who define it as supporting or opposing President Obama and his agenda do so because they either want him to succeed or fail. And some who define it as the last chance to stop bad legislation have a political agenda: They want to kill any health care bill Congress considers this year for leverage in next year’s congressional elections.
That’s more of the old Washington political gamesmanship people are fed up with. It’s not about working together on a bipartisan basis for the good of the American people. It’s not about taking time to get the right health care bill.
In reality, the meaning of the motion to proceed is very simple:
It’s a motion to commence debate and an opportunity to make changes.
Let me say it again: it is a motion to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it.
If you don’t like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it? Why would you stop senators from doing the job they’re elected to do—debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?
He concludes, once again, by emphasizing the need for enough time:
But before I say yes or no on that motion to proceed, I believe Nebraskans want me to have adequate time to read the bill and to study its costs. That’s just common sense.
To do otherwise would be like deciding before the opening kickoff of a football game to punt on first down. Once I have the ball—or the bill—and can assess the situation, I’ll be ready to call a play.”
My reading of this statement is that Nelson will ultimately vote on the motion to proceed, but that he’ll push Reid to wait until after Thanksgiving recess to hold that vote, as opposed to rushing a vote this Saturday.
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