Ben Nelson Does Something Good

Thank the good flying spaghetti monster, Ben Nelson (D-NE) has decided to vote for cloture on a healthcare bill after he was able to reach an agreement with the leadership of the caucus. The deal, as it turns out, is a surprisingly decent one. The first part of the agreement concerns Medicaid funding, and is basically a thinly veiled bribe to transfer some cost from small states like Nebraska to the federal government. But hey, it’s not that much money in the grand scheme of things, and getting Nelson’s vote for cloture has a lot more value than having states pick up the cost of Medicaid expansion one year earlier. It says something about how trivial the Senate ultimately is, but that’s hardly worth getting worked up about at this point.

The other element of the deal concerns abortion rights, and this is a bit more sketchy, in part because I’m not totally sure what, exactly, the details are going to be. As I understand it, the agreement centers around language that is stronger than the original Senate bill, but less strident than the Stupak amendment. Apparently it centers around allowing states to opt out of abortion coverage requirements, and would probably produce little to no effect on access to abortion services over the present. In any event, Stupak is furiously working against the deal, so that probably says something good about Nelson’s deal.