Don't forget about Nelson

Joe Lieberman seized the media spotlight on Sunday when he effectively declared the Medicare buy-in dead on arrival.

Since then, speculation has focused on what Democrats must do to get the Connecticut Independent to be their 60th vote, with reports surfacing that the White House is pressuring Harry Reid to cut a deal with their senatorial bete noire.

But Lieberman is only the 60th vote if Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is on board, and Nelson has made clear that he will filibuster the bill if the abortion language is substantially changed. This fact seems to have been lost in the frenzy surrounding Lieberman's comments.

The Senate has already voted down Nelson's Stupak-like amendment.

"I still have the unique issue of abortion," Nelson said on Sunday's Face the Nation. "I've said I can't support the bill with the abortion language that's there."

Nelson noted some of his colleagues are trying to craft comrpomise language, that would "be compatible with the Stupak language" but somehow pass muster with pro-choicers as well.

But "that's a tall order for people," Nelson noted, quite rightly.  "And I'm not prescribing ahead what they may be able to do."

Of course, Democrats do have one more option. They could forget about Nelson and hope that the price of placating Lieberman--dropping anything that resembles a public option or even a Medicare buy-in--would win over Olympia Snowe (R-Maine.), who is less particular about the abortion issue.

But if a Senate bill emerges with no strong abortion restrictions, it may not make it through the House, where Stupak and his pro-life colleagues have pledged to vote against any bill without their preferred language.