The Senate yesterday defeated a health-care bill amendment that would have ensured no federal funds for abortions. The vote was 54-45—ominous for the health-care bill's supporters, who need 60 votes to end debate. The anti-abortion amendment's chief sponsor, Nebraska's Sen. Ben Nelson (Bob Casey and Orrin Hatch were co-sponsors) had earlier suggested he'd filibuster the bill if his amendment failed, but a comment shortly after yesterday's vote now has some pro-lifers and other conservatives worried that he's backtracking.
The Huffington Post reported:
Nelson routinely seeks out packs of reporters and speaks at length until questions are exhausted, but following Tuesday's 54-45 vote, he slipped out the back of the Senate chamber to head for negotiations between five liberal and five conservative Democrats going on in a room across from Majority Leader Harry Reid's office.
A few reporters waiting outside the door asked him how it would effect [sic] his decision on whether to support the final effort.
"I want to continue to work on this," he said, not ruling out his support, at least "not at this point in time. I want to continue to work on the project we're working on … This makes it harder right now [to support the bill]. We'll have to see if they can make it easier."
(For what it's worth, the more reliable The Hill had the quote as "It's made it harder to be supportive. We'll just have to see what develops. We'll have to see if they can make it easier.")
However, earlier reports of Nelson's filibuster promise had similar caveats. "I will not vote to take it off the floor," Nelson told TalkingPointsMemo last week. But he added, "Now I don't know ...1