Ben Nelson will once again be playing a key role in Senate negotiations over a major legislative drive. The centrist Nebraska Democrat told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he does not currently support the Employee Free Choice Act --- also known as card check -- a bill that would allow workers to choose to unionize either through a secret ballot or by signing cards of support.
"I'm not in favor of the bill as it -- I haven't seen exactly what was put in, but if what was put in is the same as it's been described, I'm not in support of that," he said.
Nelson, as he almost always does, left a window open. "But I also believe there'll be a major effort to modify it before it ever comes for consideration, and I'll have to take a look and see what it is then," he said.
Democrats need 60 votes to invoke cloture to end a Republican filibuster of the measure, meaning that each of the 58 Democratic votes -- 59 if Al Franken is seated -- is crucial.
Nelson was asked by a reporter if he would vote for cloture even if he ended up eventually voting against the bill. But Nelson wouldn't commit to such support.
"We'll have to see whether there's adequate debate. There are a lot of questions that remain about what the process is long before we have to make a decision about the cloture vote," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he thought the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote are there.
"We, of course, are looking for 60 votes. I think, frankly, they're there. Now remember: these are procedural votes. These aren't votes on the substance of the bill," he said. "I think getting 60 votes on the procedural aspects of it is certainly there."