AXELROD PRESSES NELSON ON HEALTH CARE VOTE…. White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and Senior Advisor David Axelrod hosted a 30-minute conference call with bloggers last night (I was one of several who participated) to discuss the reform bill. They covered a fair amount of ground, but there was one response from Axelrod that stood out.

Susie Madrak posted the audio of the conference call, and wrote up a detailed report on the discussion topics, which included re-importation, enforcement of new insurance regulations, annual caps on health care expenses, and recent polling data.

Of particular interest, though, was Axelrod’s response to a question about Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who continues to threaten to hold health care hostage.

“We are working hard to persuade Senator Nelson that this is in the best interest of Nebraska and his constituents and the country. And we will continue to do that as we will with other members of the Senate,” Axelrod said. “And the main thing I would say to him and others members of the Senate is that after a long, long, long and thorough debate, let us have a vote.

“What we are arguing about today is not whether a majority support the bill in the Senate,” Axelrod added. “A majority does. What we are arguing about is whether they will have a chance to express themselves and vote — or whether a minority will thwart the majority and keep that vote from happening.

“And so my hope is that for Senator Nelson, who has always said under Republican administrations that we shouldn’t use procedural maneuvers to try and keep bills from coming to the floor, that he will not allow that to happen here.”

That’s probably about as critical as any White House official has been of Nelson during the process. It’s also a good point.

I don’t doubt that all of the relevant players are well aware of this, but I still think the strongest possible pitch with Nelson is “just let the Senate vote.” Whether he meant it or not is unclear, but Nelson has always denounced obstructionism. Now he can prove his sincerity.

Nelson doesn’t have to like the bill; he doesn’t even have to vote on the bill. He just has to clear the way for his colleagues to have a say after a grueling year.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.