Nelson 'not 100 percent certain' he'll support health bill's final passage

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he's not yet "100 percent certain" he can vote for health reform legislation.

Nelson, who gave Democrats a crucial 60th vote to end debate on its healthcare bill and pass it, said he's hopeful he can support whatever final legislation comes before the Senate, but can't be sure.

“I hope so, but I’m not 100 percent certain of it," Nelson told The Chadron Record in an interview last Friday.

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Nelson had been the last Democrat to hold out support for Democrats' health bill, having raised concern over the bill's inclusion of a public option, and later, its lack of restrictions on federal subsidies for insurance plans covering abortion. Nelson also announced his support for the bill after $100 million in assistance to Nebraska for new Medicaid obligations in the legislation were added.

The House is set to begin work on the Senate's bill, which it will amend before sending back to the upper chamber for final passage, the last hurdle the bill would need to cross before heading to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

The senator's remarks serve as a warning for House Democrats to not drag the bill significantly toward the version they had passed in late 2009, or risk losing his pivotal vote.

Nelson said the House would have to keep intact deals on abortion and excluding the public option.

“I’ve made it so clear. It isn’t going to happen," Nelson said of the public option. “I’m not giving away that 60th vote. I’ve not been bribed for it.”

Nelson has been seen as a relatively secure vote for final passage of that bill after he had announced his support for the Senate bill, though his latest statements leave some wiggle room for the Nebraska centrist. Republicans have pummeled him for having supported the bill, as well as the $100 million assistance package, which they have derided as the "Cornhusker Kickback."

Nelson defended that deal, which he's now sought to expand to all 50 states.

"I’m not seeking a pot of money. I’m just trying to see that all states are treated the same,” he said. "Nebraska isn’t going to get something that the other states aren’t going to get.”

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