Nelson defects from Dems over trials

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson joined a bipartisan effort on Wednesday to block the administration from trying the Sept. 11th suspects in civilian courts.
 
Nelson (Neb.) signed onto legislation offered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) to require military commission trials for those suspects. Nelson made the announcement in a conference call with reporters, primarily citing the costs of security for the trials.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I believe that given the severe costs and security risks associated with holding these trials in civilian court, the best course of action would be to use military commissions,” Nelson said. “When the Justice Department announced late last year that they intended to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 9/11 co-conspirators in civilian courts in New York City there was an outcry about this plan and the effects and the costs it would inflict on New York and all Americans."

Known as one of the Senate's most conservative Democrats, Nelson has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Obama administration recently.

Nelson cited a letter that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent to President Barack Obama, protesting the decision to hold the trials in his city because of the associated security costs. Nelson said recent estimates have reached $1 billion.

"Mayor Bloomberg was right that New York City should not have to bare the burden of this unfunded mandate from the federal government, but neither should American taxpayers," Nelson said. “Given the immense costs and associated risks, I believe that trying those charged with the attacks of 9/11 in military commissions is the appropriate course of action."

And that wasn't Nelson's only move against the administration this week.

On Wednesday, he supported the GOP's effort to block the confirmation of Craig Becker, the administration's appointee to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker failed to receive the 60 votes he needed to move forward in the confirmation process.

In December, Nelson was a longtime holdout on the healthcare reform bill, only guaranteeing his support after Democratic leaders promised to help his state with future Medicaid costs. The deal was roundly criticized by Republicans as "the Cornhusker kickback," prompting Nelson in January to ask that it be removed from the legislation.