Health Debate Puts Nelson Under Scrutiny, Brings Attention To Dean
Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's crucial 60th vote allowed his Senate colleagues to block a likely Republican filibuster and pass their version of the health overhaul legislation last month, but it also brought him unwelcome attention at home, The Wall Street Journal reports. Nelson backed the bill after securing a unique deal for his state the federal government would foot the bill for Medicaid expansions in Nebraska as part of the overhaul causing an immediate GOP rebuke. "Republicans have derided the bill as the 'Nebraska Windfall.' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) called it 'sleazy.' Even the state's governor, Republican Dave Heineman, has been critical of the deal." A recent poll showed Heineman a possible 2012 contender for the Senate seat beating Nelson with 61 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Nelson aired an advertisement during the University of Nebraska's Holiday Bowl Game last week, saying, "I'm convinced this is right for Nebraska" (Davis, 1/2).
Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, presidential candidate and Vermont governor, has also drawn the spotlight as part of the health debate, according to Politico. Dean "called out President Barack Obama and his congressional allies over their concessions on health care," a stand that "has infuriated party leaders, who have alternately tried to marginalize him and to bring him on board." The tension between Dean and the administration reflects the frustration of liberal Democratic activists who "have grown increasingly disenchanted with Obama's presidency and are urging Dean to keep up the drumbeat as the health care debate heads to conference this month" (Vogel, 1/3).