comments_image Comments

Ben Nelson Stalls Financial Reform, Right After Scolding Republicans For Doing the Same

Share

This post originally appeared on the Washington Monthly.

Several months ago, as the Senate was getting ready to bring a health care reform bill to the floor, Republicans had vowed to filibuster the motion to proceed. In other words, every member of the Senate GOP caucus was not only prepared to block a vote on the legislation, they also wanted to block a vote on having a debate about the legislation.

At the time, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was far from sure about the bill, but balked at the Republican tack. The conservative Democrat said the motion was merely "to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it." He added, "If you don't like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it? Why would you stop senators from doing the job they're elected to do -- debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?"

I don't know, Ben, why would a member stop senators from doing the job they're elected to do?

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Thursday he would not support a procedural vote later this month to begin debate on a climate bill that includes a cap on electric utility emissions, a declaration that underscores the tough climb that Majority Leader Harry Reid will have in trying to cobble together a 60-vote supermajority on the controversial issue.

"A carbon tax or trade piece would significantly increase the utility rates in Nebraska for businesses, agriculture and individuals," the Nebraska Democrat told POLITICO. "I don't think that's an appropriate way to go. And while I'd usually vote for a motion to proceed, this is so extraordinary, that I just can't bring myself to do that."

Keep in mind, Nelson hasn't even seen the bill. But if the legislation tries to limit carbon emissions at all, he'll side with Republicans and try to prevent the Senate from even talking about the energy/climate bill.

It's too soon to say how big a problem the vote on the motion to proceed might be. In 2008, a bipartisan climate bill was brought to the floor with overwhelming support, with Republicans approving the motion to proceed on the bill they opposed because they were anxious to attack it. That may yet happen again.

But in the meantime, I'd love to hear Ben Nelson answer his own questions: "If you don't like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it? Why would you stop senators from doing the job they're elected to do -- debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?"