Nebraska Dems Pressure Sen. Nelson on Public Option

Gemma Baltazar

The Nebraska Democratic Party State Central passed—almost unanimously—a resolution this weekend supporting a public option in a reformed healthcare system. The resolution is reminiscent of one passed last month by Democrats in the state's Lancaster County, which also championed the public option. But as Nebraska Democrats continue to emerge in favor of a public option, where does the state’s lone Democratic senator, Ben Nelson, fall on the issue? Nelson, considered a potential swing vote in the healthcare debate as a centrist Democrat, has been critical of Democratic ideas concerning healthcare reform—especially the public option. He has said in the past that he won’t vote for cloture, which would end a Republican filibuster on the legislation in the Senate. What Nelson has ardently called for is bipartisan reform and cost controls. But the way he votes on healthcare legislation could potentially lose the support of party members in his own state. Yesterday, Nelson reaffirmed his commitment to represent Nebraskan opinion at the national level. By holding public town-hall style meetings all around the state, Nelson believes he is “keeping an open mind on every option for health reform” and remaining attuned to the needs of his constituents. But in light of this recent resolution, it is fair to question whether that commitment extends to the national stage. As the debate over healthcare legislation continues to unfold this week in Congress, it will be interesting to see how Nelson mediates party and state loyalty.

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Gemma Baltazar is a fall 2009 In These Times editorial intern and a student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
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