Ben Nelson reverses on his reversal

BEN NELSON REVERSES ON HIS REVERSAL…. I’m finding it nearly impossible to understand what, exactly, motivates Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) lately, but when it comes to reforming the Senate’s rules, he may end up in the right place.

To briefly review, about a month ago, Nelson, the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, was “outraged” by GOP obstructionism. Reflecting on additional Republican threats to block bills the GOP doesn’t like, the Nebraskan added, “It may have worked as a good tactic … to win the last set of elections, but I don’t think it can hold for the next two years.”

Two weeks later, he joined every other returning Democratic senator in signing a letter to the leadership, urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pursue changes to the chamber’s filibuster rules.

This week, Nelson did a 180-degree turn, telling Nebraska’s largest newspaper, “The last thing we need to do is start changing rules.”

Today, a spokesperson for the senator told Greg Sargent that Nelson may support changes after all.

[Nelson spokesperson Jake Thompson] emails that in fact, Nelson is open to supporting Senator Tom Udall’s filibuster reform plan, which was introduced yesterday, as “a starting point.” He adds that Nelson recognizes that “clearly the Senate is dysfunctional and too often dilatory tactics are used to obstruct it from working for the American people.”

What’s more, Thompson says, Nelson isn’t completely ruling out supporting doing reform by a simple majority, which may be necessary if Dems can’t reach a deal with the GOP. When I asked whether this is something Nelson could support, Thompson told me: “Americans want Congress to work together, so the bipartisan work underway on filibuster reform won’t be helped by saying what he might do if it fails.”

That’s better than yesterday. Nelson isn’t willing to say yet that he is open to supporting filibuster reform by a simple majority, but chiefly because he’s worried it will scuttle bipartisan nominations. And he is not ruling it out.

I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea how, when it comes to institutional reforms, Nelson could support, oppose, and then support again the same ideas — all over the course of two weeks — but if the senator’s spokesperson is right, Nelson’s principles are in the right place.

Whether he’ll change his mind again remains to be seen.