Sen. Ben Nelson unsure if healthcare reform efforts will have 'happy ending'

There may not be a happy ending for people on health reform, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said this weekend.

Nelson, who gave key support to healthcare legislation in the Senate in December, defended his actions to support the bill, lashing out at the media for heaping scrutiny on deals the senator had secured to support the reform package.

"I don't know if there's a happy ending for health care," Nelson told a Democratic Party dinner in Lancaster County, Neb., as reported by the Lincoln Journal Star.

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Senators are set to return to Washington this week after a protracted break due to snowstorms and a scheduled recess. A new, $15 billion jobs bill and finishing healthcare work top the majority-holding Democrats' agenda.

Senate leaders have said they're prepared to use a majority-vote tactic to move forward on health reform, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) conceded he's not sure if the GOP will have the votes to stop it.

Nelson has backed the majority-vote budget reconciliation process, which sidesteps the 60-vote threshold usually needed to end a filibuster, to move forward on healthcare.

Still, his skepticism about a happy ending reflects still-present uncertainty that Democrats will be able to cobble together the votes to finish health reform after more than a year of work on the issue.

Nelson defended his own actions on health reform, too, including the $100 million in Medicaid funding he secured for Nebraska before agreeing to provide the crucial, 60th vote to move forward on the legislation. He's now said the provision, derided by Republicans as a "Cornhusker Kickback," should be removed.

"You don't like it," Nelson said of the scrutiny he faced after the deal. "But what I like even less was the fact that the media was so willing to print and repeat inaccurate information."

Nelson also dodged a question on whether or not the rough time he's had since the vote, which has been reflected in a drop in his poll numbers with Nebraskans, would lead him to decline reelection in 2012.

"That's so far in the future I do not even allow myself to think about it," the Journal Star reported Nelson as saying. "There are three or four political lifetimes between now and that decision."