Dem v. Dem: Health Reform War Gets Bloody

By Lindsey Ellerson

Jul 31, 2009 6:25pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: “If this is an indication of the politics going into August, then health care reform may be dead by the end of August.” The internecine war between liberal and conservative Democrats on the health reform overhaul stalled in Washington is getting more and more intense. A devastating ad produced by Howard Dean’s group Democracy for America directly and unsparingly targets Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb, who is nervous about a public health insurance plan and has said the Senate should not rush into a vote on anything. The highly produced ad features Mike Snider, the owner of the Syzzlin Skillet in Ralston, Nebraska.  Snider says his health insurance costs are jumping 42 percent and he’ll have to drop his coverage and “just pray my kids won’t get sick.” Then Snider, an average looking guy with a mustache, tells the camera, “I hear that Ben Nelson, the Senator that I voted for, is leading the charge to delay health reform this summer. That’s exactly what they want. The health and insurance companies that have given Sen. Nelson over $2 million, know that if they can stall reform they can kill it. I have to ask, Senator, whose side are you on? If you’re on my side, stay at work; my family can’t wait for reform.” Watch the ad HERE. It’s a tough ad for a progressive group to run against a Democrat – one of the 60 whose vote will ultimately be needed to pass any reform bill. Nelson fired off a strongly worded paper statement late this evening, saying the ad would have the opposite effect. The entire statement is below, but it’s the last line that is most important. “If this is an indication of the politics going into August, then health care reform may be dead by the end of August,” says Nelson in the statement. And as one of the 60 Democratic votes that would be needed to break a filibuster on a partisan bill, Nelson could make that happen. Nelson’s statement: Nebraskans don’t need outside special interest groups telling them what to think. Senator Nelson has nothing but praise for Nebraska groups working toward health care reform. Unfortunately, he says, these outside groups undermine the sincere and dedicated efforts of people in our state. “Recently, similar ads have run in Nebraska. Those ads by other special interests prompted hundreds of Nebraskans to call our offices, with 9 to 1 urging Senator Nelson to do exactly the opposite of what the special interest group wanted. In short, the ads backfired. “If the impact is the same this time, Howard Dean’s Democracy for America will be sorely disappointed. Further, these scare tactics are certain to further divide the public on health care reform, make it less likely Congress will pass real reform and call into question the motives of those who say they want reform, but use the issue to raise money to try to buy influence inside the Beltway. “Senator Nelson believes that while most Nebraskans want health care reform, they don’t want it rushed; they want it done right.  He has said he will consider a “public plan” as long as it doesn’t undermine the health coverage 200 million Americans have now. He supports Medicare, TRICARE and S-CHIP, and each is a public plan. He also helped establish Kids Connection, Nebraska’s public-plan health insurance for children. “In the Washington debate, various ‘public plans’ are still being considered, but no single plan has emerged. So, it’s ridiculous to suggest that Senator Nelson is “leading the charge” –as the ad says–against something that doesn’t exist.  “Nebraskans know Ben Nelson is an independent thinker. He also has a long record in the governor’s office and the U.S. Senate of bringing people together and working constructively so important legislation becomes law. Today, he’s looking to support bipartisan legislation that reduces health care costs, boosts the quality of care and expands coverage to people who can’t obtain it now. “If this is an indication of the politics going into August, then health care reform may be dead by the end of August.”

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