Washington (CNN) - Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson told a Nebraska radio station Thursday that he will not vote for the Senate health care bill as it stands because of concerns over insurance coverage for abortions and other unresolved issues.
Nelson, who could be the crucial 60th vote the Democrats need to overcome a Republican filibuster, said the bill "as it is now, without further modifications, it isn't sufficient" and that he will not vote for it.
"If it is not at the point that I think it needs to be with the improvements that I'm pushing, and they've made a lot of them, then I will not vote on cloture on the motion to end debate," Nelson told KLIN on Thursday.
Nelson received a compromise proposal on abortion language Wednesday from another anti-abortion Democrat, Sen. Bob Casey. The Nebraska senator said there the proposal represented "lot of improvement on the legislation, (but) the basic question on the funding of abortion has not been fully answered yet."
When asked if the bill would get through the Senate by Christmas, the senator - who also said he had continuing tax and cost questions about the bill - asked if the radio host was "talking about this Christmas or next" and said he was "more concerned about getting it right."
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Ben Nelson tells CNN he has received a compromise proposal on abortion restrictions that look "better than what's in the bill," but that he has to review it, and send it back to anti-abortion interest groups in his home state of Nebraska.
The compromise proposal was devised by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn, another anti-abortion Democrat who has been trying to help Democratic leaders and Nelson negotiate a compromise to win his support for health care.
A Democratic leadership aide would say only that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nelson and others have been "going back and forth" with ideas on how to find common ground on this vexing issue for several days.
Nelson - whose vote is likely crucial to pass the Democratic health care reform bill - has said he believes the abortion restrictions in the Senate bill are too weak, and has threatened to vote against the plan if it isn't changed. His amendment to adopt the strict prohibitions passed by the House was defeated.
Washington (CNN ) - Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson announced Friday that he would be supporting the motion to proceed that would allow the Senate to begin debate on the Democrats' health care reform legislation.
"Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct," he said in a statement. "That's what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about. It is not for or against the new Senate health care bill released Wednesday. It is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements. If you don't like a bill why block your own opportunity to amend it?"
The Nebraska Democrat sounded a positive note Thursday after emerging from a meeting with Reid and other moderate Democratic holdouts in the Senate Majority Leader's office, although he told CNN then he was withholding his final decision on the motion to proceed until he had a chance to "study (the bill) or at least review it to begin with."
Washington (CNN) - Coming out of their Wednesday meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana both had positive comments that suggested they were more ready to vote for a motion that would allow debate to begin on the Democrats' health care plan than they had been prior to this afternoon's sitdown.
Landrieu and Nelson, along with fellow moderate Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, met with Reid in his office.
"Sen. Reid gave me some assurances that some of my concerns will be dealt with," said Landrieu, who stressed she would not make a decision on whether to vote for the motion to proceed until the text of the bill was released, and she had a chance to review some of the provisions again.
"I’ve been very clear. There are two or three issues," she told CNN. "One, does this bill actually drive down costs to individuals, to businesses and to the government. Number two, is there a quote, public option that will undermine the private insurance market - and if there is, it needs to come out at some point. It needs to come out at some point.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sixty. It's the magic number of votes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to move his health care reform bill to the Senate floor and tamp down filibuster threats by Republicans.
And the 60th vote could well be Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska.
Nelson and other Democrats have spoken out against the costs of plans being discussed, and most recently the $1.1 trillion House bill, which passed last weekend.
Reid doesn't expect Republican support for the bill, so he'll need all of the 58 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them.
Nelson, 68, recently said he would decide how to vote on whether to send the bill to the Senate floor once he sees the final version.
"I'm not going to make any kind of commitment until I see the bill," Nelson said, adding that he has not given Reid any assurance or "secret" acknowledgment of support.
"I can't decide about the procedural vote until I see the underlying bill," he told CNN.
Nelson told ABC News on Tuesday that faced with a decision on whether to "move a bill that is bad, I won't vote to move it."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Late Wednesday night, Sen. Ben Nelson's office was littered with doctored, deliberately embarrassing photos of the Nebraska senator. There's no investigation looming - Nelson already knows the culprit: a fellow Senate Democrat, who boasted of her exploits on Twitter.
Ahead of the Nebraska-Missouri football game, Missouri Sen. McCaskill and her press secretary were granted access to Nebraska Sen. Nelson's office for the latest round in a prank war that stretches back years.
The senator and her aide replaced official and family portraits.with various doctored pictures of Nelson sporting Missouri's black and gold, and posing with the Mizzou tiger mascot, according to Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson. "Important timely new official photo. Glad @SenBenNelson has finally come around," McCaskill tweeted, along with a picture of Nelson sporting the Mizzou logo on his face, a gold Missouri lapel pin and a gold and black tie.
(CNN) – Just days before President Obama is set to address a joint session of Congress in an effort to get the health care reform debate back on track, two Democrats senators have lots of advice for Obama and his young administration.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,“ Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “for him to put the meat on the bones, to really give the American people some details.”
Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s advice suggested that Obama and congressional Democrats have, up to this point, lost control of the message war in the health care reform debate.
“If, somehow, the private market doesn’t respond the way that it’s supposed to [to other aspects of health care reform], then it would trigger a public option or a government-run option,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “but only as a fail safe, backstop to the process. And when I say trigger ... I don’t mean a hair trigger. I mean a true trigger – one that would only apply if there isn’t the kind of competition in the business that we believe there would be.”
Fellow Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota appeared open to the use of a trigger but said she needs more information about what Nelson is proposing.
“I’d want to see what those triggers are, what the benchmarks are,” Klobuchar told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. Klobuchar also said that she was concerned about the high costs of health insurance faced by many small businesses and self-employed individuals.
“Certainly it’s worth looking at,” Klobuchar said of possibly using a trigger to set up a public health insurance option three to five years after any health care reform bill is enacted. “But we have to push competition. We have to do a better job of putting some rules on the insurance companies.”
The use of a trigger to bring a government-run insurance option into the insurance market is a proposal currently under consideration by the White House. It’s an effort to win the support of Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of the three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee’s so-called “Gang of Six” and the one who appears most open to reaching a compromise with the White House and congressional Democrats.
(CNN) – Two Democratic senators said Sunday that they would prefer not to see their party use “reconciliation,” a procedural maneuver in the Senate designed for budgetary legislation which only requires 50 votes for a bill to pass, in order to get a health care reform bill passed without the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.
“I would like to see us at 60. I would like to see some bipartisan support for this bill,” Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar said on CNN’s State of the Union.
“I do think that it is a possibility,” Klobuchar said of the prospect of winning Republican support in the Senate for health care reform.
“The problem with going down to 50 is we just have more limited tools in terms of getting the kind of work that needs to get done to help people.”
Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, suggested using reconciliation to pass a health care reform bill with a simple majority might stoke some of the fear and unease seen at some town hall meetings across the country during the congressional August recess.
“The people in Nebraska are already concerned that we’ve been rushing things through,” Nelson told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “and if we went to some sort of parliamentary shortcut, I think they would be even more alarmed than they are right now. That’s what I heard during the town hall meetings.”
After suggesting that Democrats should craft a bill that would get at least 60 votes in the Senate, Nelson also suggested Sunday that the ambitious plans for health care reform favored by some – especially more liberal members of his own party – should be scaled back in favor of a more piecemeal approach.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Americans are gripped by "an awful lot of concern, fear, anxiety" and "frustration" in the health-care debate, a key Senate Democrat warned Friday.
The description of an increasingly nervous national mood illustrates the growing challenge facing President Barack Obama and supporters of health-care reform as Congress prepares to return in less than three weeks.
"I think America has been traumatized by the debate," Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a moderate Democrat, said on the CNN Radio show "44" with Ed Henry.
Nelson, considered a critical swing vote in the Senate, bemoaned what he called the "misinformation" and "misunderstanding" that has characterized so much of the debate. He highlighted the confusion over a provision in the House version of the health-care bill that includes coverage of end-of-life counseling for Medicare beneficiaries who want it.