Democrat Ben Nelson Draws a Line in the Sand on Health Care

Nelson won't vote for a health care bill that looks like the House version.

ByABC News
November 10, 2009, 1:20 PM

Nov. 11, 2009— -- In a warning sign for the White House, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska tells ABC News that he'll vote to block any health care bill that looks like the bill passed by the House.

"Well, first of all, it has more than a robust public option, it's got a totally government-run plan, the costs are extraordinary associated with it, it increases taxes in a way that will not pass in the Senate and I could go on and on and on," Nelson said in an interview that is part of ABC News' Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.

"Faced with a decision about whether or not to move a bill that is bad, I won't vote to move it," he added. "For sure."

The $1.1 trillion price tag on the House bill, Nelson said, is "absolutely" too high.

Nelson's vote is critical to getting a bill passed because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes before the Senate can even begin debating the bill. With all 40 Republicans currently opposed to it, Reid needs the votes of all 60 Democrats.

There is one thing about the House bill, however, that Nelson does like: the strict ban on any abortion coverage by insurance plans bought with government subsidies. Unless the Senate bill includes a similar provision, Nelson said, he'll vote against it.

"Federal taxpayer money ought not to be used to fund abortions," Nelson said. "So whether it is subsidies on premiums or whether it is tax credits or whatever it should not be used to fund abortions."

Nelson also talked about the message he heard from former President Bill Clinton, who talked to Senate Democrats at their weekly closed-door luncheon.

"What I heard him say is that you don't have to let the desire for perfection get in the way of the good," Nelson said. "And that makes a great deal of sense. But I would add the caveat that we have to be sure it is not a bad bill, that it doesn't add to the deficit, that it doesn't increase taxes, and that does, in fact, control the growth in costs."