They got Ben Nelson.
Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the final Democratic holdout on health care, announced to his colleagues Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas of President Obama’s top domestic policy priority.
Asked if he had secured the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) told reporters, “It seems that way.”
The Senate is expected to work its way through a series of procedural motions over the next few days, with a vote on the legislation scheduled the evening of Dec. 24th. A conference with the House to produce a final bill would likely extend into January, Senate aides said.
So how did they get him?
Well, he had initially objected on the abortion provisions that had been raised, but it looks like he secured some special favors for Nebraskans as well…
Under the new abortion provisions, states can opt out of allowing plans to cover abortion in the new insurance exchanges the bill would set up, to serve individuals who lack coverage through their jobs. Plus, enrollees in plans that do cover abortion procedures would pay for the coverage with separate checks — one for abortion, one for the rest of any health-care services.
Nelson secured full federal funding for his state to expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Other states must pay a small portion of the additional cost. He won concessions for qualifying nonprofit insurers and for Medigap providers from a new insurance tax, and was able to roll back cuts to health savings accounts.
“I know this is hard for some of my colleagues to accept and I appreciate their right to disagree,” Nelson told reporters at the Capitol, of the many changes made at his behest. “But I would not have voted for this bill without these provisions.”
Are they cheering in Omaha tonight?
More as it develops…