Nelson will not vote for Elena Kagan

Senator Ben Nelson, who gets his jollies pretending to be a Democrat, just announced that he will NOT vote for Elena Kagan. Apparently he believes that only judges should be nominated to the Supreme Court, never mind that over a third of past justices have not been judges, including the first four Chief Justices: John Jay, John Rutledge, Oliver Ellsworth, and John Marshall. Too antiquated, you say? Then how about modern Chief Justices Earl Warren or WILLIAM REHNQUIST?

At least Nelson says he won't filibuster. His statement over at First Read:

“As a member of the bipartisan ‘Gang of 14,’ I will follow our agreement that judicial nominees should be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances. If a cloture vote is held on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, I am prepared to vote for cloture and oppose a filibuster because, in my view, this nominee deserves an up or down vote in the Senate.

“However, I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns raised by Nebraskans, or to reach a level of comfort that these concerns are unfounded. Therefore, I will not vote to confirm Ms. Kagan’s nomination.”

Ben Nelson will do anything to appear "independent," even if it means forever flushing logic, truth, and dare I say integrity down the toilet. He is the worst lawmaker in the United States Senate. He is harmful to America and harmful to the citizens of Nebraska. Just yesterday I sent him a letter that used the word "Pbbbbbbbbtttttthhhhhhhh" in response to his announcement that he will do whatever it takes to bring down Nebraska agriculture and vote against climate legislation. Remember also that although he did vote for the final product, Nelson filibustered the first attempt to pass cloture on financial reform, and that he is the reason it took so long to pass an extension of unemployment benefits. Forget the word progressive, and forget the phrase Blue Dog - this man is not even a Democrat.

And of course he would announce this on a Friday afternoon, just as everyone is checking out for the weekend. Cowardly slime ball.

Let's end this post on a related but lighter note: Republican Judd Gregg did announce that he will vote for Kagan. At least that's nice. Thank you, Senator Gregg, along with Senators Graham, Lugar, Collins, and Snowe, for putting country ahead of party, unlike so many of your colleagues.

Ben Nelson and Judd Gregg ignore their constituents

Senator Ben Nelson doesn’t understand climate change, and is going to harm the very industries he seeks to protect. But at least he’s not Senator Judd Gregg, who refuses to think for himself - and that should drive even tea partiers nuts. From Politico:

“A carbon tax or trade piece would significantly increase the utility rates in Nebraska for businesses, agriculture and individuals,” the Nebraska Democrat told POLITICO. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to go. And while I’d usually vote for a motion to proceed, this is so extraordinary, that I just can’t bring myself to do that.”

Either Nelson’s quote is bogus and he has nothing but contempt for Nebraska agriculture, or he doesn’t understand a thing about climate change. Yes, Nebraska does have incredibly cheap electricity from Wyoming coal and that will probably change at least somewhat under if carbon is priced, but if carbon isn’t priced, there won’t BE much Nebraska agriculture left to care!

A panel of ecologists, biologists and professors told an audience of 50 on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's East Campus that as the world grows warmer in the next 50 years, so will Nebraska.

It wasn't a comforting message.

Declines in Rocky Mountain snowpack could devastate flows in the Platte River.

More precipitation could fall, but the chances of catastrophic flooding will increase.

Nebraska will get a longer growing season, but it also will get weeds and insect pests that have never been able to survive the region's harsh winters.

Add to that a Nature Conservancy report that shows Nebraska will see one of the two or three sharpest increases in temperature of any state under any scenario.

New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg is even worse. The same Politico article quotes him saying, “I’ll wait to see what the leadership position is before I make a decision on what I’d do” regarding a possible filibuster.

What’s that, Judd? Can’t think for yourself about these things? Listen, you weren’t elected to represent the citizens of leadership’s Arizona and Kentucky, you were elected to represent the citizens of New Hampshire – and a new UNH poll out just this week shows that they understand that climate change is real and that it is caused by humans. So do the right thing, not the Mitch McConnell puppet thing.

Gregg's retiring this year. Let's replace him with someone who will actually try, and help Paul Hodes get to the Senate.

For the record, both men voted for cloture on the Lieberman-Warner climate bill. So Nelson's just plain flip-flopping, and Gregg doesn't want us to know yet if he's a decent guy or not.

Clean Energy Movement Gains Power in Nelson’s Nebraska

It’s been a busy few days for clean energy support here in Nebraska, the state that claims not only swing Senate vote Ben Nelson but also the fourth largest potential for wind energy in the country. Today, the Omaha World Herald, one of the country’s most successful newspapers, printed an editorial in strong support of a wind energy bill currently before the state legislature. This followed a Saturday OWH op-ed from seven prominent state clergy opposing Lisa Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act, which Senators Nelson and Johanns both currently co-sponsor. Also on Saturday, 45 faith activists gathered at a local Catholic university for a four-hour forum on how to green congregations and support climate change legislation.

The subject line of a recent 1Sky e-mail blast was “Murkowski's not finished -- and neither are we.” They’re right – as long as Senator Murkowski keeps trying to prevent the EPA from preserving the Clean Air Act, we need to keep standing in her way. Nebraskans have taken note. On Saturday, seven Jewish, Christian, and Unitarian ministers co-authored an Omaha World Herald op-ed calling on Nelson and Johanns to do just that:

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that the EPA has the responsibility to regulate such pollution and that a failure to do so constitutes a violation of the Clean Air Act. To comply with this ruling, the EPA proposed new rules last year to enforce the Clean Air Act and limit air pollution from greenhouse gases. The Dirty Air Act — as written by energy lobbyists, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and co-sponsored by Sens. Nelson and Johanns — would block those rules from taking effect.

Sen. Nelson says he supports the Dirty Air Act because of the “enormous costs and the detrimental impact on jobs and businesses” that new EPA rules would impose. We disagree and do not believe that job creation and public health are values in opposition to one another…

Some may question why we as faith leaders have chosen to speak out on what is often seen as a political issue. We support laws that benefit public health because all of God's children are created in God's image and should not be neglected. We support job creation because of what the Bible says in Proverbs: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.”

Interesting fact about the World Herald: according to Wikipedia, the paper “has for many years been the newspaper with the highest penetration rate -- the percentage of people who subscribe to the publication within the paper's home circulation area -- in the United States.” Its readership is further helped by the fact that it is the only major paper still printing two editions a day and that it owns the valuable URL

With numbers like those, when the World Herald speaks, Nebraska politicians should take note. They should especially take heed of today’s editorial, “Wind energy bill proposes sound course.”

Some of the questions asked by committee members during the public hearing centered on what protection landowners had if a wind farm went belly-up in the 10-year period before it was required to set up a decommissioning fund. Given the 90 percent contractual requirement, that doesn't seem likely. However, there is a small amount of risk involved. Several landowners said it is a chance they'd gladly take. As Jim Young of rural Kimball County noted, “It's less risky than farming.”

In the amendment to LB 1048 that will become the final bill, Sen. Langemeier outlined an unusual method of taxing wind energy facilities that would stretch out the tax benefits over 20 years. The provision exempts wind-related equipment from the state's personal property tax. Instead, it substitutes a “nameplate capacity tax,” applied to each megawatt of wind farm capacity, not each megawatt actually produced. The taxation method seems reasonable…

LB 1048 would reinforce a sense of cooperation, a willingness to work out problems and a welcoming atmosphere for investors and developers. That's Nebraska, and that's a fine outcome.

Finally, a crowd of 45 people gathered at the College of St. Mary on Saturday, the region’s only Catholic girls school, for “Sustainable Faith: An Interfaith Forum on Climate Change and Clean Energy.” I organized the forum on behalf of Repower America so I’m a bit biased here, but I was thrilled by the attendance and by the crowd’s passion. A lot of great networking happened, and we heard from some great speakers, including the Rev. Dr. Chuck Bentjen of Beatrice, director of the ELCA-NE’s Justice and Advocacy Ministries; Fr. Bert Thelen, S.J. from Omaha’s Creighton University; the Rev. Dr. Ken Moore of Lincoln, the regional minister for the Disciples of Christ and board president of Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light; and Deacon Betsy Blake Bennett of Grand Island and Hastings, an Episcopal minister and philosophy professor. We watched the documentaries “Coal Country” and “Preaching for the Planet,” and talked about what we can do to use our voices of faith to pass this legislation and save lives. It was a great event and hopefully just the start of a lot more to come in Omaha, Lincoln, and beyond. If you're interested in PDFs of the conference handouts, please e-mail

Ben Nelson – are you listening?

There's more...

Ben Nelson: Reconciliation May Be Necessary

You can be pissed off at Ben Nelson over the "Cornhusker Kickback" or Mary Landrieu and the "Louisiana Purchase" all you want, but in the end game, Nelson might just be the reason health care reform passes. First it was Evan Bayh, now it's Nelson. You'd almost not realize it was the "moderate" crowd we're dealing with here. From NTV:

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson says he's open to using special budget rules known as reconciliation to pass a health care package.

Speaking to Lincoln's KLIN radio Friday, the Democrat said it's the least preferable method of passing legislation but sometimes it's necessary.

Nelson stressed that he won't decide whether to support an overhaul package until he sees the final details, including a cost estimate.

This is not the first time Nelson has expressed his lack of opposition to using budget reconciliation for health care, but his previous statement on the issue came shortly before the State of the Union and got drowned out by the postgame. From Bayh to Nelson, as senators begin to realize that bipartisanship truly is impossible and reconciliation really is the only option, this is slowly moving in the right direction. I was wrong: maybe we really do have the 50 votes (plus Biden) we need.

Nelson dances and plays games to get as much out of the process for himself and his state as he can, and you can't blame him, that's his job. But at the end of the day, he'll probably be with us on this. Thank you, Senator. Now do the right thing and bring this home.

Speaking of reconciliation, here are two good myth-busting articles. Ezra Klein compares the cost of health care reform and the Bush tax cuts and calls out Lamar Alexander's hypocrisy, and NPR looks at past health care measures passed via reconciliation.

Might Ben Nelson Switch Parties for 2012?

You've got to wonder about my Senator, Ben Nelson (D-NE).

Although he gets a reprieve for 2010, his 2012 re-election bid will be Nebraska's next Senate race, and as his and his party's approval ratings dip and his race grows closer, he's started to tack even harder hard to the right than usual. He supported his party's top priority, health care reform, but only after he won major conservative and parochial concessions on abortion and Medicaid. He watered down the stimulus. He's not likely to support one of the next major initiatives, clean energy reform (although thankfully he is still open to negotiation and consideration). And now he will oppose one of the President's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board because the man is pro-labor, never mind that a pro-labor Democrat won the White House with 53% of the popular vote.  Politico's Manu Raju:
The move is likely to infuriate labor groups who have fought hard for Craig Becker's nomination to serve on the five-member NLRB - and will likely give Republicans enough support to sustain a filibuster Tuesday.
Nelson, a conservative Democrat up for reelection in 2012, has seen his approval ratings drop sharply since he lent his support for Obama's health care bill in December and secured deals for Nebraska's Medicaid payments.

His latest decision could help him tout his independent credentials back home, but will likely generate anger from the left, which says Becker is a well-qualified nominee who has been denigrated by his opponents.
One has to wonder. If Nelson is willing to abandon his positions when the politics get perilous, might he be willing to abandon his party if the politics get even worse? If the economy doesn't improve by November 2010 and Republicans make big gains, will Nelson switch parties for his re-election run?
I admire that the man is willing to act on his own and fight hard for his state, and his concession-based votes for health care and the stimulus were better than letting the bill die and did help bring other conservative Democrats on board, so I'm more frustrated with the man than I am angry. Nevertheless, it will take a lot of national DNC/DRSC investment to keep his seat, and you'd think he'd try to curry a little more favor with those groups and their investors than he has done. It will be interesting to see how he votes and behaves in 2011.
I believe that Ben Nelson will stay a Democrat, and for that I am thankful. There are no rumors to the contrary - this is just me wondering aloud. Still, it strikes me as possible cause for concern, however slight. I'm sure if we asked his office they would vigorously deny that the thought has ever crossed his mind, but that's what Arlen Specter was saying hours before his 2009 switch, too.



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