The Senate health care bill does not provide federal money for abortion, maintaining the status quo. But like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and a sizable bloc of conservative House Democrats, Nelson says that's not good enough. Nelson said he plans to introduce an amendment to the Senate bill roughly resembling Stupak's.
Would he vote for a final bill if he can't get that language included? "No," he told reporters.
This is bad news for Reid. So far, Joe Lieberman has said he would filibuster any bill that contained anything that even remotely resembles a public option. Reid's plan B has seemed to be to gain Olympia Snowe's support with Carper's “alternative” non-public triggered co-op non-option. If Reid gains Snowe's vote by effectively killing the public option with this new trigger, he can only afford to lose one Democratic vote. If Joe Lieberman remains firm about the public option, and Ben Nelson remains firm about the Stupak language, it is unclear how Reid could ever get 60 votes for any bill, regardless how watered down. (Technically, Nelson maybe referring to voting for the final bill, and not voting on cloture for a final bill. In the past, Nelson has indiciated that he does not think there is really a distinction between those two votes on health care.)
Of course, for months now, Reid has had the option of using reconciliation to pass a decent bill without the Stupak language and with a public option. Reconciliation can't be filibustered, and so would only require a simple majority to pass the Senate.