December 18, 2009 in Nation/World

Nebraska Democrat still a holdout on health bill

Nelson seeks tighter abortion restrictions
David Espo Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – A year in the making, sweeping health care legislation backed by President Barack Obama hung in the balance Thursday as conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson withheld his vote in pursuit of stricter abortion limits and liberals grew restive on the left.

Any lingering hopes the bill’s supporters had of a Republican casting a critical 60th vote vanished when Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said after a meeting with Obama that the Democrats’ timetable for a pre-Christmas vote was “totally unrealistic.”

Nelson, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, was vague throughout the day about his intentions, eventually telling reporters, “I hope we’re getting closer” to agreement.

“Without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient,” he said earlier in the day in a written statement that summarized the results of days of private negotiations. The second-term Nebraskan opposes the procedure and wants tighter restrictions written into the overhaul.

With Nelson’s support, the White House and Senate Democrats would command 60 votes for the health care measure, enough to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the bill within a matter of days.

Without it, the prospects are far more uncertain, given unyielding Republican opposition on the conservative right as well as growing expressions of unhappiness on the left that sent the White House scrambling.

Abortion wasn’t the only issue Thursday, just the one commanding the most public attention.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a supporter of the legislation, said she was involved in talks to cushion the impact on nonprofit insurance companies from the effects of a new industrywide tax.

She also sought to ease the effects on small businesses from the tax on medical device makers.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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