A Man Of His Word

by digby

It's hard to know whether Ben Nelson is just doing a full CYA, but this seems to indicate that he was planning to filibuster whatever came out of the health care reform bill conference:

Yesterday, in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com Nelson said that he agreed to the compromise to “get” the final bill into conference and planned to use his leverage as the 60th vote, to insert his original amendment into in the final conference report:
LSN: OK, so you were planning on coming back…
NELSON: Absolutely. That is what I was just trying to tell the gentleman who was arguing about the 60th vote.
LSN: What made you think that it had a shot, after conference?
NELSON: Because they needed 60 votes again.
LSN: Right, but before, you voted for it even without it –
NELSON: To get it there….But, once it went to conference, as part of the conference, there was still another 60 vote threshold, and that is when I would have insisted and that is what Christy was talking about when I mentioned this on the phone – how we would approach this in conference to say, for my last 60th vote, it has to have Nelson/Hatch/Casey.

LSN: Why didn’t you stop it right then and there and say, “No Nelson/Hatch – nothing.”
NELSON: Because, at that point and time, the leverage wasn’t as strong – you have to play it [...]
LSN: So, if we got to conference and it was just the Nelson not the Nelson/Hatch/Casey – you would say ‘yes’ because you think it was good enough.
NELSON: I could have but I was going to say – and this was all the plan – that I would insist that it be Nelson/Hatch/Casey.

Nelson/Hatch/Casey, you'll recall,  was the senate version of the Stupak amendment.

Now, Nelson is very likely trying to mend fences with his forced childbirth supporters, so you have to take what he's saying with a grain of salt. However, it does lead you to wonder what effect his words will have on Stupak and the boys in the House, who are still in a position to block passage of the Senate bill, even if the leadership gets a "sidecar" deal to pass the liberal imperatives in reconciliation and all the progressives vote for the Senate bill.

It's hard to see how they could pass Stupak (or Nelson/Hatch/Casey) through reconciliation because nobody wants to make the budgetary argument on abortion. So that means they would have to try to pass it as a stand alone bill with 60. I don't see how they get there unless they get a substantial number of those who voted against Nelson originally to switch their votes to one that's even worse.

Presumably, they could get Brown, even though he's nominally pro-choice. Here's the list of the others who voted against Nelson/Hatch/Casey:

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burris (D-IL)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Collins (R-ME)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kirk (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (D-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

So, if it comes down to Stupak and his boys being the last roadblock and demanding passage of the senate version of the Stupak amendment, which of the above could the leadership possibly get to switch?  And could Stupak pass a second time in the house? Would Obama sign it? All big questions.  But if you  ask me if the congress and the president would sell out women to get a bill, I'd have to lean yes. Passage of this bill means that some liberals somewhere must lose something and women's reproductive freedom seems to have been one of the designated prices to be paid for extending health care to everyone.

Maybe it won't come to that. It's possible that Stupak will agree to something that doesn't require the 60 or enough of his anti-choice posse will see that health care reform is more important than their parochial obsession with other people's reproductive organs and they will vote for the senate bill which only has the nearly equally bad Nelson compromise. But if you check out the "pro-life" groups online, they are putting tremendous pressure on their people to vote against anything less than the Stupak language.They understand how valuable that is both politically and morally to their cause.  To force pro-choice liberals to vote against their deeply held principles and make the pro-choice president sign it would be a sweet victory and a strong  show of strength.  It would be quite a win for them.

Update: Ron Brownstein has more on pelosi's statement today that she thinks she can pass a bill in the House if the Senate agrees to reconciliation:
Pelosi identified several key changes that she said must be made in the Senate bill through the reconciliation process to win support for the overall package in the House. These included eliminating the favored treatment in the expansion of Medicaid that Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., won for his home state during the final stages of the Senate negotiation; providing greater affordability for people who would be required to purchase insurance under the bills' individual mandate; and structuring the new insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, that would be created under the bill. (The House created a national insurance exchange, while the Senate left the exchanges to the states.)

Pelosi seemed most insistent on adjusting the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-value insurance plans included in the Senate bill. That measure has been a priority of the White House, which views it as a cornerstone of its efforts to control the long-term growth in health care spending. Just before Brown's victory in Massachusetts, the White House reached an agreement with organized labor to narrow the tax's application, which labor leaders argue would hit too many of their members. Pelosi described that agreement as "a good start" in revisiting the tax, but added "there are those who would like to go further than that." Indeed, at another point in the interview, she declared, "The easiest thing is to just get rid of the whole excise tax."

Asked about the role of abortion in a final resolution of the two chambers' differences, Pelosi said, "Let's just say that's not the subject of our conversations at his time. Right now, we're talking about affordability for the middle class, fairness for the states and how they help people have access to health care, those kinds of issues, how this is paid for. If we hear back from the Senate that they can't get 51 votes, there's no use having all these discussions. The sequencing is, 'what can they do, and is that something that works for us?' They know what we need."

Without offering specifics, Pelosi said that even after the reconciliation process, House members might attempt to pass further legislation to revise the Senate bill. "On a separate track, we'd want to do some of the things that you can't do under reconciliation but that you can do free-standing," she said.
But, with Brown's victory, any free-standing health legislation could be blocked by a Senate Republican filibuster.

Would Senate Republicans filibuster a free standing Stupak Amendment? Would Democrats?