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Nelson on Health-Care Deadline: 'This Christmas or Next Christmas?'

1:05 PM, Dec 17, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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In an interview with a Nebraska radio station this morning, Sen. Ben Nelson splashed some more cold water on Harry Reid's ambitions. (Listen to the whole interview, here.)

If the abortion issue were solved to your satisfaction, would that enough for you to vote for you to go along with the bill?

"No. There are other substantive issues. That alone is reason not to vote for cloture because the long-standing Hyde rule should not be weakened in any respect with regard to federal funding of abortion, either directly or indirectly. That should remain intact. And, I think the Stupak language, which was adopted in the House version, is the right language. I know others are trying to work on and improve it, but I don't know if they will be successful."

On Harry Reid's push to pass this in the Senate before Christmas:

"Are you talking about this Christmas or next Christmas?"

"I accept the idea of deadlines and the pressure that that creates bc sometimes that helpes you get something done. People work in many ways better under pressure than not, but a deadline and a timeline that's out there that not achievable isn't helpful."

"I can't tell you that they couldn't come up with something that was satisfactory on abortion between now and then and solve all the other issues that I've raised to them, but I don't see how. So, I'm less interested in a deadline than I am in getting it right or trying to go back to the drawing board in some areas."

On the issue of states bearing costs of expanded programs to cover uninsured:

The other issues are substantive. To create an underfunded federal mandate for the state of Nebraska...I'd already started the process of giving the states the opportunity to opt in. They wouldn't be in if they chose not to expand Medicaid... they could find another way to deal with that uninsured population...

I wanted to give the governors and the legislatures as much flexibility in dealing w that as humanly possible"

If the abortion issue was taken care of to your satisfaction, would that be enough for you to vote for cloture?

"No. That's not enough...(Improvements have been made, but) the basic question about funding of aborions has not been fully answered yet."

On tax increases on certain populations to fund expansion of coverage:

"It is complex and it's further complicated by tax increases as a means of funding extending coverage to those who don't have it. There is no free lunch, here. The way in whcih money is raised is not acceptable."

On trimming ambitions in the face of financially tough times:

"If there isn't a way to raise the money in tight times, I think you have to look at a scaled back version...
I've said this needs to be handled on an incremental basis."

On priorities:

"The first order is to get costs under control. If you don't get costs under control under the current system, adding more people just makes the problem bigger."

On Howard Dean:

"There's no way we're gonna satisfy Howard Dean unless you go to single-payer, government-run health care...That's what he's always wanted."

Right now, Ben Nelson sounds like me on this bill. Exactly what does he like about it, and is there any realistic chance he can be convinced in a week?