As Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) left the Senate chamber around 1:30 am on Monday, he found himself on the defense yet again over the abortion funding restriction deal he agreed to in the Senate health care bill.
It was a reminder that this issue will again be the center of controversy as Democrats try to work out a final health care deal in the Congress.
“I’m not gonna argue with you,” Nelson snapped at one reporter who asked about abortion.
“Who are you with?” he asked another after she posed several abortion related queries.
As for what he would accept out of a House-Senate health care conference, Nelson made that very clear – he wants no changes, other than maybe getting the language that’s part of the House bill, as forged by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI).
“I’d be very happy with the Stupak language,” Nelson said.
It should be noted that Rep. Stupak is not interested in Nelson’s Senate language, as Nelson’s deal has come under fire from both pro-life and pro-choice groups, who charged over the weekend that it was unworkable at best, and unacceptable.
“He has a different about what I’ve put together than what I do.”
“I tried to write what I thought was the best deal,” said the Nebraska Democrat, who vigorously denied that he had sold out his pro-life credentials.
Nelson did say several times that if his deal on abortion language is subjected to major changes, then he reserves the right to filibuster the final product.
This is going to be a real balancing act for Democratic negotiators, since so many pro-choice liberals in the House want no part of any language that looks like Stupak or Nelson.
But without it, they may be short on votes for a health care bill.
It will be a very interesting January.