Sen. Nelson Rejects Abortion Compromise
News outlets were quick to cover the announcement by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., about his stance on the Senate health bill.
Reuters: "Democratic hopes for passing a broad healthcare overhaul in the U.S. Senate by Christmas took a hit on Thursday when a party holdout, Ben Nelson, rejected a compromise on abortion aimed at winning his vote. ... Democrats have no margin of error -- they control exactly 60 votes and face so far unified Republican opposition. Nelson, an abortion rights opponent, said compromise language designed to strengthen the ban on using federal funds for abortions was not good enough to meet his concerns." Nelson also said he would not "be able to back Democrats on a series of upcoming procedural votes without more changes to the bill." He made these comments to KLIN radio in Lincoln, Neb. (Whitesides and Beech, 12/17).
The Associated Press: The compromise language "attempts to separate private from public funding for abortion, an approach that Democrats have tried in various ways without winning over anti-abortion groups or Catholic bishops. ... Nelson said abortion wasn't his only concern and he didn't see how the Christmas deadline was achievable. ... The abortion language was written by another anti-abortion Democrat, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, among others, and was an attempt to secure Nelson's support for the health care bill while also keeping liberals on board" (Werner, 12/17).
The New York Times: "Mr. Nelson, who is arguably the most conservative of the Senate's Democrats, has been uncertain about the health care legislation all year long, reminding reporters and colleagues alike that he will not make up his mind until he has gotten a close look at the bill. And given that the bill keeps changing - yet another version of it is expected to be revealed by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, within the next 48 hours - it has not been particularly easy for Mr. Nelson to come to a decision one way or another."
"He said he was opposed to a new long-term care insurance program included in the bill, and that he was skeptical about proposed cuts in payments to nursing homes and for home health care providers." But even with these concerns, he "also described the current state of the health care system as unacceptable" (Herszenhorn, 12/17).
Sen. Nelson's office issued a statement, which ends by saying: "He said today that he is open to looking at additional attempts to maintain the federal restriction on public funding of abortion."