Nelson and Reid Don’t Reach Abortion Deal, Focus Shifts Again to Olympia Snowe

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 18, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nelson and Reid Don’t Reach Abortion Deal, Focus Shifts Again to Olympia Snowe

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 18
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Senators Ben Nelson and Majority Leader Harry Reid met virtually all day on Friday to see if they could make any progress in ironing out a deal on abortion funding in the Senate health care bill.

Nelson emerged from the meeting, which also included pro-abortion Sen. Chuck Schumer and White House staff, saying they were no closer to a deal.

Nelson previously rejected a compromise from Sen. Bob Casey that added some pro-life provisions to the bill to support pregnant women but left the abortion funding intact.

With a Saturday deadline approaching to reach a deal that would allow passage of the government-run bill by Christmas, Nelson told Politico today he is no closer to supporting the bill and becoming the 60th vote.

"Hopefully we’re making progress," Nelson said. "As I’ve said there is always a lot of room which you have to have between the bid and the ask, and we’re seeing if we can close the gap."

Asked whether it was possible to resolve their differences by the deadline, he said, "I don’t know. I can’t predict the time."

Later in the day, it appeared more progress was being made.

“All the pieces are beginning to fall into place,” Schumer said, according to Politico. “But we’ve still got a ways to go.”

Nelson then said they were making progress “if for no other reason than you understand each other’s position a little better.”

Despite the ticking clock to get the bill done by Christmas, Nelson said he had no timeline.

“Harry has some time frames he is thinking about,” Nelson said, according to Politico. “But I don’t have a deadline. To me, you have to get it right.”

Also, Casey vowed to "keep trying" to find a way to get Nelson’s support.

"I want to be a fountain of ideas on this topic," he told the New York Times.

Despite the impasse, Reid says he will unveil his manager’s amendment on Saturday, the language used to keep all 60 Democrats in favor of the bill and opposing the Republican-backed filibuster. He will also unveil the financial numbers lawmakers have been waiting for after an unrelated Saturday morning vote.

“That’s the plan, soon after that vote because we want to file cloture on that quickly,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, according to The Hill.

The manager’s amendment will likely include another attempt to craft language to satisfy Nelson, unless Reid can get pro-abortion Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to support the bill.

Snowe had been thought to oppose the bill, but Reid and his colleagues and reportedly going after her to back it because of the breakdown in getting Nelson to sign on to the measure.

But President Barack Obama recently met with her and she told CBS News, he’d "prefer to get this moving" but added that she urged him to put off the bill until next year to work on her concerns.

Abortion advocates are also trying furiously to get Snowe on board and NARAL on Friday launched internal efforts to generate calls and emails into her office and put forward an "emergency" petition to its members to get that.

"Health care reform is in real trouble," NARAL president Nancy Keenan wrote in an email obtained.

"With Sen. Nelson holding up the health-reform bill unless he is granted an anti-choice amendment, we need Sen. Olympia Snowe to step up and be the 60th vote for health-care reform," she wrote. "Snowe is the only Republican to cross party lines to vote for health-care reform legislation in committee. And she’s the only Republican to vote twice against a ban on abortion coverage."

But, Thursday, Snowe said the Democrats timetable for a pre-Christmas vote was totally "unrealistic."

ACTION: Contact the offices of Nelson and Snowe by going to and urge them to oppose the bill and support the filibuster.

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