Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) distanced himself from the bulk of his caucus today, arguing that the healthcare debate is still in its early stages and urging Senate leaders to slow down the legislative process.

"We're still in the first half of the first quarter," he told a town hall meeting in McCook, Neb.

The White House and Democratic leaders have worked hard to create a sense of urgency in the healthcare debate, hoping to pass a bill by Thanksgiving.

But Nelson, a key centrist whose vote Democrats almost certainly need to reach the 60-vote threshold, said he won't be rushed.

"We can't push this through if it it's this important," he said. "Some of us won't let that happen."

He added that hios vote "is not an autopilot for anyone."

On the substance of healthcare reform, Nelson reiterated his opposition to a public option and said he doubts it will be included in a final bill.

"I don't see it happening," he said.