Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must think of Sen. Ben Nelson as a party pooper.
Pro-life advocates might start looking at Nelson sort of like the student who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Nelson may be the last vote Reid needs to get a vote through on health-care reform.
He’s holding out. The Nebraska senator told a Nebraska radio station this afternoon that new language proposed to reach a compromise on abortion funding is not good enough.
Nelson and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah had proposed an amendment recently that was similar to the Stupak Amendment in the House, prohibiting federal funding of abortion under the health-care reform unless the mother’s life is in danger or if the baby happened to be conceived as a result of rape or incest. The Senate rejected the Nelson-Hatch Amendment, with many senators complaining the language went too far. Pro-lifers, the U.S. Bishops Conference and the National Right to Life Committee argue that it merely folds the language of the Hyde Amendment into the health-care bill. One bishop, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, pointed out that the Senate itself voted for a couple of recent bills, including the huge appropriations bill the other day, that had language in it that was similar to the Nelson Amendment.
Now, at the prompting of President Obama, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has come up with an alternate that Democratic leadership hopes Nelson and other pro-life senators will find accepatable. Nothing doing, Nelson said.
Nelson praised elements of the language that would boost funding for teen pregnancy programs and tax benefits for adoptive parents, saying that “there’s a lot of improvement on the legislation,” according to a statement on his website.
But, he said, the compromise “does not yet ensure that a longstanding federal standard barring public funding of abortion would be maintained in the Senate health care bill.”
But, Nelson said, “the basic question about the funding of abortion has not been answered yet.”