Blue Dog Democrat Pleased With Brown’s Win
Senator Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb) Communications Director, Jake Thompson, told me that Senator Ben Nelson is “pleased with last night’s results.” Thompson said he “never asked to be the 60th Democrat.” Nelson will no longer feel the intense pressure of party loyalty to be the 60th Democratic vote.
EDITOR’S UPDATE: Thompson contacted NJP and said he disputes the quote and that he did not say Senator Nelson is “pleased” with the Massachusetts election results. He said NJP “reported it inaccurately.” In a phone conversation, Thompson said “the sense that he would be pleased with the results because it takes pressure off of him is not the case.” Thompson continued to say “indeed it does and the pressure was intense because he was the 60th vote and he didn’t ask to be and never did want to be or pursue to be the 60th vote.”
NJP sticks to this story as reported. The quote was a result of a discussion with Thompson about the Senate supermajority and the election. Thompson responded to a question as to whether Nelson was a bit relieved. Thompson responded by saying that in that sense, Nelson is “pleased with last night’s results. He never asked to be the 60th Democrat.”
EARLIER POST: Because Republican Scott Brown stripped Massachusetts of its Democratic Senator, the Senate will now host 59 Democrats, instead of the filibuster proof 60 seat majority. Democrats will likely need at least one Republican to pass controversial legislation. On a conference call with Nebraska reporters, Senator Nelson said the Massachusetts election is a “wake up call” to Democrats to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans.
Senator Nelson has always been a wild card. The Democrat comes from a conservative state and he votes that way. According to Congressional Quarterly, Senator Nelson, voted against his party 37% of the time, more than any other Democrat in 2009.
Senate Democrats stopped negotiating with moderate Republicans during health care because it only needed every member of its caucus, a feat challenging enough.
Before the Christmas Eve vote, leadership peppered the bill with perks to sway shaky Democrats. One sweetheart deal is now known as the “corn husker kickback,” in which the federal government will pay for Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion. But the deal has received a major backlash, angering other states and the electorate. The apparent vote buying is being blamed as one reason for voter anger in Massachusetts.
Senator Nelson and Democrats want the “corn husker kickback” to go away. It is possible that the provision will be removed. But the way forward on health care is unclear after the Tuesday’s Massachusetts election.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans hoped the election meant the end of health care reform. Meanwhile, Democrats said not passing health care is not an option.
Democrats have not yet figured out a way forward, but one idea most popular in the Senate is for the House to pass the Senate bill. But House members, especially progressives, are unhappy with many Senate provisions. Specifically, the Senate bill has stricter affordability standards.
Another option is a process called reconciliation. It is a procedural tactic that needs only a simple majority, or 51 votes, to pass. The challenge with reconciliation is that it only pertains to spending and revenue provisions. Policies like abortion and the health insurance exchange would not be part of reconciliation.
A third proposal is a mixture of the two previous proposals. The House passes the Senate bill and the Senate follows up with a reconciliation bill that includes the compromises on affordability, the tax on high income health insurance plans and other provisions agreed on between the White House and Democrats.
A fourth proposal is to pass a slimmed down bill that would easily receive a majority of votes such as regulations on health insurance companies.
Passing health care before Republican Scott Brown is seated is loosing momentum. One Senate Democratic aid said that would feel “dirty.”
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