In trouble at home and looking even more silly after Scott Brown’s victory, Sen. Ben Nelson is now trying to claim that all along, he had planned to filibuster the health care bill before the final vote if the merged bill that came back from conference didn’t include the House’s more restrictive abortion language. During last month’s debate, the Nebraska Senator introduced the Nelson/Hatch amendment on federal funding for abortion that was essentially the same as the Stupak language in the House bill. The amendment failed, but Nelson voted for the Senate bill anyway, after famously negotiating the “Cornhusker kickback” in which the federal government picked up the full tab for the bill’s Medicaid expansion for Nebraska and only Nebraska.
In an interview yesterday with LifeSiteNews, Nelson tried to argue that voting for the Senate bill that did not include his preferred abortion language was all part of his grand strategy to make sure that language was in the final bill:
NELSON: Well, Friday night – what happened, whatever night it was, we got the commitment that the public option was gone, I scrubbed dozens of other things out of it that federalized the bill to take it out – I defederalized it so that it would be a state option, not a national option. There would be no public option. It would be state-based. It would be private markets to keep the FTC out, to keep the Health and Human Services out unless invited in and all kinds of other things. When we got all those things done, then I could support the bill the way that it was – knowing that when I went to conference, that I could come back with Nelson/Hatch/Casey.
LSN: OK, so you were planning on coming back…
NELSON: Absolutely. That is what I was just trying to tell the gentleman who was arguing about the 60th vote.
LSN: What made you think that it had a shot, after conference?
NELSON: Because they needed 60 votes again.
LSN: Right, but before, you voted for it even without it –
NELSON: To get it there. Right. I know – with my language which was better than the language in the bill. But, once it went to conference, as part of the conference, there was still another 60 vote threshold, and that is when I would have insisted and that is what Christy was talking about when I mentioned this on the phone – how we would approach this in conference to say, for my last 60th vote, it has to have Nelson/Hatch/Casey.
It goes without saying that this is completely absurd. Nelson’s leverage was at its peak when Democrats were desperate to pass the Senate health care bill before Christmas, and if he was going to take a principled stand, that was the time to do it. Now that Brown’s victory has has made him largely irrelevant, it’s easy to say that he was prepared to hold up the bill over abortion language. It is pretty amusing, nonetheless, to see how he tries to squirm his way out of the situation like a second grader in the principal’s office.