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Dem Senator on Stimulus: "I don't even know how many Democrats will vote for it"

2:45 PM, Jan 30, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) appeared on Fox News this morning to discuss his concerns about the 'stimulus' bill that the Senate will take up next week, and his effort to suggest changes that could lead to a stronger bipartisan vote. From his tone, it sounds like there may be a number of Democratic senators who are unhappy with the bill:

Nelson: What I want to see changed in the bill, is to move away from some of the so called programs that are 'stimulus,' that are at best marginally stimulative.

Hemmer: Give me an example Senator.

Nelson: Well for example there's $58 million for smoking cessation programs. There's $400 million to study STDs...

I don't even know how many Democrats will vote for it as it stands today because a lot of -- lot of my colleagues are not decided. They're undecided on the bill as it is right now.

Right now Nelson seems to be the only Democratic Senator publicly wavering on the measure, but its rapidly falling popularity must be worrisome -- particularly to senators in conservative states. And while only Nelson is saying publicly that he might vote no, it's clear that he's hearing from other colleagues who see this turning into a big negative. With the Senate set to vote next week, and some conservative groups now calling on their members to voice their opposition, the bill may need to see some changes before it comes to a vote.

That said, Nelson is going to have a hard time arriving at a compromise that works. He complains that the bill doesn't have enough traditional infrastructure spending in it, and that it wouldn't bother him if the bill grew larger to allow more such spending. He makes a valid point. While Democrats are largely selling the bill as a roads and bridges measure, that accounts for only about 3% of the total. Increasing that number would lead to a slower payout however, so even more money would be spent in later years, when it will do no good. And even if a few billion more for roads and bridges was attractive to some senators, it could easily lose others who are already wary of the overall total price tag.