A prominent moderate Democrat warns that he will block the Senate healthcare bill if it bears any resemblance to the one that passed the House.
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, criticizing the House bill’s “robust public option,” said it simply is too costly at $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years.
It's "got a totally government-run plan, the costs are extraordinary associated with it, it increases taxes in a way that it will not pass in the Senate, and I could go on and on,” Nelson told ABC News.
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Nelson joins Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut as the second member of the Democratic caucus to say he would vote against cutting off debate on the bill if it has a public option.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes to bring his healthcare bill to the floor for a final vote, and the announcements from Lieberman and Nelson mean he lacks the votes.
Nelson, whose stand on the public option has raised the ire of the left wing of the Democratic Party, took aim in response at former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and those he called “Deaniacs.”
“They are special interests, and they have their own agenda,” he said. “And my agenda, I think, is the same as the people in Nebraska, their agenda, and I am going to do what I think is right.”
Nelson, however, says he was pleased with the passage of the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House, which would deny federal funding to health plans that provide abortions except under extreme circumstances. Since the passage of the House bill, abortion-rights supporters have said they would like to see the anti-abortion amendment stripped from the final bill in the House-Senate conference committee.
He plans to vote against the Senate version if it does not contain similar language.
“Federal taxpayer money ought not to be used to fund abortions,” Nelson said. “So whether it is subsidies on premiums or whatever it is . . . it should not be used to fund abortions.”
The senator also addressed the closed-door comments former President Bill Clinton made to members of the Democratic caucus about what they need to do to pass healthcare.
“What I heard him say is that you don’t have to let the desire for perfection get in the way of the good,” Nelson said. “And that makes a great deal of sense. But I would add the caveat that we have to be sure it is not a bad bill, that it doesn’t add to the deficit, that it doesn’t increase taxes, and that it does, in fact, control the growth in costs.”
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