So Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the bluer of the old Bush Dogs, is helping enable Republican obstructionism in the Senate:
According to Fox News, Nelson convened a meeting in his Senate office today with Senate Republicans and some Democrats who are seeking “common ground on how they can improve the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.” Nelson’s meeting included Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
Here's what he told Fox:
NELSON: I don’t know, I don’t even know how many Democrats will vote for it as it stands today because a lot of my colleagues are not decided. They’re undecided on the bill as it is right now. Fortunately, we don’t have to take the vote on it right now. We have an opportunity to make some improvements.
He later came on Andrea Mitchell's program at MSNBC, in the clip above, and tried to explain further:
Nelson: So what we have to do is what the president just said in the last clip, is we have to create jobs. And if you take a look at the stimulus package, there are those programs that are there for infrastructure, that are there to develop construction, that will create jobs, and those have a robust nature to them in creating jobs. Unfortunately, there are other parts to the program that are borderline, marginal, when it comes to job creation. There's no question that there's a lot of spending in the bill, but what we really need to do is focus on what it does for jobs.
According to the Washington Post, two programs in particular are the object of Nelson's displeasure:
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who remains undecided about the bill, said he opposes money going to research projects at the National Institutes of Health and about $13 billion for Pell grants that help students pay for college. Nelson says the measures are worthy but do not belong in legislation designed to stimulate the economy.
But as Red Rogue at DailyKos notes:
Earlier today, President Obama released state by state job improvement numbers should the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Program be implemented. According to the figures, Nebraska would see an employment boom of 19,220 jobs or a -1.3% drop in the unemployment rate.
Those numbers alone make the program worthy of support.
I'd love to put something in this diary telling you to "Call Senator Nelson and demand he vote for the bill!" but it wouldn't have any effect. Honestly I think Nelson is toeing that line yet again in order to shore up support amongst conservatives in Nebraska. It's no different than earlier this week when Nelson voted "yea" on a killer amendment on the SCHIP bill -- it's all for show because last night Nelson voted for SCHIP.
Indeed, Digby has already observed that this really is just so much posturing:
This may be kabuki. McCaskill is a super Obama friend and may be playing a role on his behalf to help him gain a handful of Republican votes so they can call it bipartisan. (Let's hope they don't give away the store to do it...) But, the end result is the same, whether Obama is part of it or not. Conservative values and economic shibboleths will have been validated and going forward we will have to re-fight the battle from square one.
Even Nelson seems to acknowledge as much to Mitchell:
Nelson: There are people who think we have a choice here. I'm not sure we have a choice. But I do think there are choices within this package that we can make.
Unfortunately, Nelson's way of making that point is all about enabling Conservative talking points -- which they will then use to explain their ideological obstructionism. Nice job, Senator.