Senate Democrats May Employ Tabling Strategy to Defeat Nelson Amendment

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 8, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Democrats May Employ Tabling Strategy to Defeat Nelson Amendment

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 8
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Senate Democrats are saying today they may vote to table the Nelson amendment under a majority vote rather than having an up-or-down vote on the amendment under the 60-vote process currently guiding amendments to the Senate government-run health care bill.

The Nelson amendment would remove the massive abortion funding under the bill found in the public option and affordability credits.

Currently, all amendments to the bill are coming up under unanimous consent agreements that require a 60-vote margin to pass.

However, Senate Democrats may file a motion to table, or kill, the Nelson amendment and that motion, if approved, would only require a majority vote. That’s because setting the 60-vote threshold would require unanimous consent from all 100 senators — something that supporters of the Nelson amendment may not grant.

While such a motion would give backers of the Nelson amendment an easier margin, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a pro-abortion Illinois Democrat, says his vote counting totals make it appear to him that backers of the Nelson amendment don’t have the support of even a majority of the Senate, let alone 60 votes.

“The whip count says it’s close, but at this point it appears there are more senators that would vote to table than those that are opposed to tabling,” he told Congressional Quarterly.

Leading pro-life groups are not likely to be worried about a tabling motion because it still results in a vote that gives a clear result on the amendment and a clear record of where senators stand on abortion funding that can be used in the 2010 elections.

If the Nelson amendment fails, pro-life groups will pull out all the stops to defeat the bill itself.

Responding to that, Durbin also told CQ he is less worried about the defection of Sen. Ben Nelson, the pro-life Nebraska Democrat sponsoring the amendment who has said he will filibuster the whole bill if it is not adopted. He said he stands to lose votes on the bill from pro-abortion lawmakers if the amendment is approved.

“This is a zero sum situation. We could gain one senator and lose several others,” Durbin said.

If Nelson filibusters the pro-abortion health care bill, Democrats will need Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Olympia Snowe to support the bill and not lose any other Democrats who are considered possible defections.

"I know that there is a genuine outreach effort to Senator Snowe and others on the Republican side," Durbin said about that.

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