Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) threw another hurdle in the path of health care reform on Sunday, declaring he would oppose a legislative maneuver to have a bill considered by an up-or-down vote.
The Nebraska Democrat, who has been one of the toughest party members for leadership to corral on the issue, told the Omaha World-Herald that he would oppose an effort to get legislation passed through reconciliation. Such a procedure would allow Democrats to pass reform with 50 votes, but would limit the size and scope of the health care package. Party leaders have suggested that they would use reconciliation should they be unable to secure the 60 votes needed to stave off a Republican filibuster.
Nelson's office did not immediately return a call for comment. The World-Herald reporter on the piece, David Hendee, recounted the exchange as follows:
"I asked him my question after his health care meeting [in Scottsbluff, Nebraska]," Hendee told the Huffington Post. "I knew he had been skeptical about getting this done through reconciliation... I said I know you've been skeptical about this but it came down to a vote. You haven't said how you would vote."
"And his answer was, in a word, 'No.' And that was it."
Nelson's opposition to reconciliation doesn't necessarily doom the possibility that it will be used. Democrats have 60 caucusing members, which means that 10 could oppose reconciliation without affecting its utility.
But the Senator's remarks are the latest in a series of roadblocks he has thrown up in the way of health care reform. Last week, Nelson's office said he was not completely committed to blocking a Republican filibuster of prospective legislation. In addition, at another point on Sunday, the Senator said he wanted a bill to be bipartisan and supported by at least 65 senators - essentially an impossibility given the outright GOP opposition.
"He said he wasn't looking for some magic number before he jumped on," explained Hendee. "He wants a bill that, he said, would have bipartisan support."
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