Nelson hearts Stupak

NELSON HEARTS STUPAK…. Soon after the House floor vote on health care reform, Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, said he was “pleased” with the Stupak amendment, and was reportedly “highly unlikely” to vote for reform unless it included language to “clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion.”

Two weeks ago, the matter seemed to be resolved. CNN reported that Nelson had “misunderstood a reporter’s question,” and he “would be satisfied with the less restrictive language approved by the Senate Finance Committee.”

Two weeks later, Nelson is being difficult again. Brian Beutler reports:

Sen. Ben Nelson told reporters today he will filibuster the health care bill if it doesn’t contain an abortion amendment similar to Rep. Bart Stupak’s amendment that passed attached to the House health care bill last month.

“I will not vote to take it off the floor,” said Nelson (D-NE).

Nelson added that he’s “made it clear” that the final bill “has to have that language in it.”

Now, this is incredibly frustrating for a variety of reasons. First, Nelson said something very different just two weeks ago. Second, the Stupak amendment is odious and has no place in the legislation. And third, to get the Stupak language into the Senate bill would take 60 votes, which is never going to happen — suggesting Nelson just vowed to join the Republican effort to kill health care reform.

I’m starting to wonder if the Senate leadership should consider a detour — maybe the road to 60 votes runs, not through Ben Nelson’s and Joe Lieberman’s offices, but through Olympia Snowe’s and Susan Collins’ offices.

Snowe’s vote is clearly in play, and Collins went to the White House on Monday with a list of concerns, all of which seem relatively “supportable” from a pro-reform perspective.

It may seem foolish, but I’m starting to think it’d be easier to win over Collins than Nelson. Despite her disappointing filibuster on the motion to proceed, Collins is generally being more reasonable from a policy perspective, and definitely seems to have a more meaningful grasp of the substantive details than the conservative Nebraskan.