Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sen. Nelson Still Not Ready To Support Health Care Bill

Dec. 17, 2009 – 2:19 p.m.

Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson reiterated Thursday that he will not support the Senate’s health care overhaul unless its restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion are strengthened.

Senate Democrats need Nelson’s vote to give them the 60 they need to advance the legislation. But he said he could not yet support a compromise on the issue proposed by Sen. Bob Casey , D-Pa.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., asked Casey – an abortion opponent, like Nelson – to draft the language that can secure Nelson’s vote. Nelson reviewed Casey’s proposal on Wednesday.

“As it is right now, without further modifications, it isn’t sufficient,” Nelson told KLIN, a Lincoln, Neb., radio station.

Meanwhile, there were hints of a problem on Senate Democrats’ left flank, as well. Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., published an op-ed in Roll Call saying that he “ absolutely will not support” a health bill that repeals the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Senate bill as written (HR 3590) does not provide funding to continue CHIP beyond 2013, though it would not repeal the program.

Still, Nelson is Reid’s biggest problem. The White House has mounted a concerted effort to reassure unhappy liberals that this isn’t the last chance to get some of their health care priorities enacted — either now or in future years.

In the radio interview, Nelson complimented Casey for offering amendments to the bill aimed at reducing the frequency of abortion by increasing federal aid for low-income pregnant women and families seeking to adopt.

“There’s a lot of improvement in the legislation,” he said, “but the basic question about funding for abortion has not been answered yet.”

A spokesman for Casey declined to comment.

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