President Nelson Makes The Call
So the President from Nebraska has weighed the options, peeked at his campaign account, and decided with a heavy heart that he just couldn't let Americans have better health insurance choices:
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Friday that he will oppose legislation that would give people the option of a public health insurance plan. The move puts him on the opposite side of two-thirds of Americans.
A poll released this week by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that 66 percent of Americans back the creation of a public health plan that would compete with private plans. Nelson, in comments made to CQ, joins the 16 percent of poll respondents who said they oppose the plan.
Nelson's problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a "deal breaker."
The problem, as President Nelson explained, is that the public plan might be too good a deal for Americans, leading them to want to purchase it. And that would just be terrible. Terrible for Ben Nelson, anyway, because his contributions would dry up.
The company Nelson finds himself in is laid out clearly: business, the insurance industry, and Republicans. Of course, this isn't surprising, considering his campaign donation history. Open Secrets says Nelson received $608,709 from the insurance industry in 2007-2008, making the insurance industry his biggest donor group, more than lawyers and even lobbyists.
And so, Nelson has decided to bow to the wishes of his campaign contributors, instead of standing up for what 73% of the American public want: A choice of a public health insurance option.
Actually, I think we do put too much emphasis on the money game as the reason for politician's every move. Nelson probably just has a personal, cultural, ideological relationship to conservative interests, and simply cannot envision progress of this ilk. Plus, publicly opposing his own party makes him a darling of the DC media circuit and increases his clout. Despite the fact that reconciliation instructions mean that Democrats could opt for passage with only 50 votes, Nelson will get lots of publicity as he, according to the article, tries "to assemble a coalition of like-minded centrists opposed to the creation of a public plan, as a counterweight to Democrats pushing for it." And the chattering class will praise his bold centrism and ability to say no to his hippie cadres.
He may not be successful - in this case, Democrats on the left really are threatening no deal without a public plan, although what form that plan takes is more the question - but it'll sure give him that unbeatable stature. That's what makes a President a President.