The Senate just voted to table Sen. Ben Nelson’s abortion amendment, by a 54 to 45 vote.
The vote could prove significant because Nelson has claimed he would filibuster any bill that did not include his Stupak-like abortion language.
The amendment would have required 60 votes to be adopted, but Democrats chose to table, or kill it, which only requires a simple majority.
In the lead up to the vote, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid tried to claim pro-life credentials before coming out against the Nelson measure. “I’ve consistently cast my vote against abortion,” Reid said.
But he went on to claim that the underlying health care bill preserves current law and prevents taxpayer money from subsidizing abortion, while arguing that the Nelson provision went further.
“We have to keep moving toward the finish line and cannot be distracted by detours or derailed by diversions,” Reid said. And echoing Obama, he insisted, “This is a health care bill, it is not an abortion bill.”
UPDATE: Here’s the official roll call. Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted in favor of tabling the amendment. Democrats voting against tabling it (and thus for the amendment) were: Sens. Nelson, Bob Casey, Evan Bayh, Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, Ted Kaufman, and Mark Pryor.
UPDATE II: The Hill reports: “It’s made it harder to be supportive. We’ll just have to see what develops,” Nelson said after the vote. “We’ll have to see if they can make it easier.”
And on working with Reid to find common ground on abortion: “I had no Plan B,” Nelson said. “Maybe somebody else has a Plan B, but I don’t see that this is one where there’s really any room for compromise.”