Sen. Nelson responds to critics with healthcare ad

Centrist Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) has launched a television ad in his home state to defend himself from liberal groups attacking him on healthcare reform.

In the ad, Nelson puts forward his “principles” for a healthcare bill but does not offer a position on whether legislation should include an option for a public insurance plan. Nelson’s reluctance to support the public option is one reason liberal groups have been pressuring him.

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“You’ve probably been hearing a lot about healthcare reform,” Nelson states in the ad. “I want you to hear my principles, straight from me."

“First, any plan must keep spending under control, help our small businesses, improve care control costs and most of all, the plan needs to work for Nebraska,” Nelson says.

He concludes the 30-second by stating he’ll always put Nebraskans first.

Members of Congress are facing pressure from the right and the left on healthcare reform. While rowdy town hall meetings dominated by critics of President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposals have ruled the airwaves, Nelson’s ad shows the pressure some Democrats are feeling from the left.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have been hammering Nelson in ads run in Nebraska and the Washington area, charging that he is an impediment to moving healthcare reform in the Senate. In their ad, a Nebraska businessman says that in delaying healthcare reform, Nelson is doing what insurance companies want him to do.

In response to the purchases by Nelson, the two liberal groups asked supporters for additional donations to keep their advertisements on television.

A bipartisan group of six Senate Finance Committee members has been negotiating a healthcare bill but was unable to reach a compromise before the August recess. Nelson is not a member of the group, which is expected to meet again this month before the Senate reconvenes in September.

Nelson is not up for reelection until 2012, making the ads a bit unusual in their timing. Assuming Democrats need 60 votes to clear a bill through the Senate, every Democratic vote for the legislation will be critical.