Ben Nelson Planned To Filibuster Conference Report, Admits Current Law Already Prevents Public Money From Funding Abortion

During last year’s health care debate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) insisted on inserting specific language into the Senate health care bill that prevented public dollars from funding abortion services and asked leadership to adopt the restrictive abortion language “that might be compatible with the Stupak language in the House.” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to incorporate the House bill’s Stupak restrictions and Nelson, along with Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Bob Casey (D-PA), introduced a similar amendment that withheld affordability credits from women enrolled in plans that offered abortion services. Once the Senate tabled the measure, Nelson held out his 60th vote until negotiators implemented a compromise that required women to write a separate check for abortion services.

But yesterday, in an interview with Nelson said that he agreed to the compromise to “get” the final bill into conference and planned to use his leverage as the 60th vote, to insert his original amendment into in the final conference report:

LSN: OK, so you were planning on coming back…NELSON: Absolutely. That is what I was just trying to tell the gentleman who was arguing about the 60th vote. LSN: What made you think that it had a shot, after conference?NELSON: Because they needed 60 votes again.LSN: Right, but before, you voted for it even without it — NELSON: To get it there….But, once it went to conference, as part of the conference, there was still another 60 vote threshold, and that is when I would have insisted and that is what Christy was talking about when I mentioned this on the phone — how we would approach this in conference to say, for my last 60th vote, it has to have Nelson/Hatch/Casey.LSN: Why didn’t you stop it right then and there and say, “No Nelson/Hatch — nothing.”NELSON: Because, at that point and time, the leverage wasn’t as strong — you have to play it […]LSN: So, if we got to conference and it was just the Nelson not the Nelson/Hatch/Casey — you would say ‘yes’ because you think it was good enough.NELSON: I could have but I was going to say — and this was all the plan — that I would insist that it be Nelson/Hatch/Casey.

Nelson also said that federal law — the so — called Hyde restrictions — already prevented federal money from funding abortions that did not result from pregnancies that threaten the life of the woman, rape or incest, and admitted that his amendment was a redundancy. “I think it was probably necessary to clear up any question about it that somebody might have — but if Hyde truly applies…It was a belt and suspenders approach … to make sure that it was clear that it didn’t… This was just to make it clear,” he said.