Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) sent strong signals on Wednesday that he may support a procedural vote to kick off the Senate's health reform debate.

In a statement, Nelson said that while he could not commit to supporting a motion to proceed on the health bill until reading the actual legislation, it would be foolish to block opportunities to amend and debate the bill.

"In reality, the meaning of the motion to proceed is very simple: It’s a motion to commence debate and an opportunity to make changes," Nelson said. "Let me say it again: it is a motion to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it."


Nelson has been one of the Democratic centrist holdouts who have not yet said how they would vote on the motion to proceed, a procedural move that need 60 votes in order to begin debate on a piece of legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to call such a vote as soon as late this week.

"If you don’t like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it?" Nelson asked. "Why would you stop senators from doing the job they’re elected to do—debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?"

The Nebraska centrist has a history of voting to start debates during his career in the Senate, even during Republican control. He voted with the GOP on procedural votes for Supreme Court nominations and at times on other key pieces of legislation earlier this decade.

But Nelson still cautioned that he has not made up his mind on the motion to proceed vote, saying he would need adequate time (he said several days) to review and read Reid's legislation, which is expected to be unveiled tonight or tomorrow.

"Once Senator Reid releases his merged health care bill and the Congressional Budget Office fiscal analysis I and my colleagues will need adequate time—over several days—to review both," he explained. "Later this week, the Senate is expected to vote on a motion to proceed, which needs 60 votes to pass. As I’ve said many times before I won’t decide how I’ll vote on the motion to proceed until I know what I’m voting on."