The Nebraska Democratic Party put the state's senior senator, Ben Nelson, in an awkward spot on Saturday by passing a resolution making support for a government-run insurance option a central aspect of its platform.
In a nearly unanimous vote at a committee meeting in Fort Omaha Metro Community College, about 70 attendees approved language that urges members of Congress "to vote for such health care reform proposals that contain a robust public option at all stages of the legislative process including conference and reconciliation, and encourage legislators to pass such reform."
Nelson remains one of the highest-profiled U.S. Senate Democratic holdouts on the public plan, even recently declining to commit to voting against a Republican filibuster of legislation that included the provision.
Officials at the Nebraska Democratic Party said the committee vote was not meant as a rebuke of the senator, who has historically taken a conservative approach to public policy issues. More an encouragement to all Democratic state legislators.
"Let's put it this way," said Vic Covalt, State Chair of the state party. "The Nebraska Democratic Party is a big tent party and Ben Nelson is a good Democrat. We believe he will represent us well.
"Sen. Nelson represents the entire state of Nebraska and he is going to do the best he can to do," he added. "The Nebraska Democratic Party is obviously a little bit to the pro-public option side of Ben. Though I'm not sure because I'm not sure where he is at."
Only one of the committee members opposed the resolution, which accuses the "healthcare insurance industry and their allies" of organizing and funding efforts to kill the public plan or pass compromise health care reform. And the Nebraska Democratic Party deliberately put into the final language a pledge to "send a copy of this resolution to all members of Congress who represent any of our members."
"[The provision] is popular with the Democrats in the state because we believe without it the bill could too easily become a welfare program for the insurance industry," said Covalt. The argument supporters made was that without the public plan, "basically we end up subsidizing insurance companies and hurting taxpayers who don't have coverage."
BELOW IS A COPY OF THE RESOLUTION:
WHEREAS, the heath care system of the United States is in crisis, with almost fifty million Americans lacking any health insurance, tens of millions more lacking adequate coverage, and millions more who do have private coverage paying increasingly unaffordable premiums, resulting in inadequate access to care and premature death, illness, or financial ruin for millions of Americans; and
WHEREAS, public polls show that a majority of Americans want health care reform to offer the choice of a robust public option in order to inject real competition into the marketplace and, in the words of President Obama, "keep the insurance companies honest:" and
WHEREAS, some in the healthcare insurance industry and their allies have organized and funded groups of extremists to disrupt efforts on the part of the majority and administration to discuss the issue with the American people reasonably, and have demonstrated an unwillingness to compromise in any way to pass meaningful health care reform;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Nebraska Democratic Party urge our members of Congress to vote for such health care reform proposals that contain a robust public option at all stages of the legislative process including conference and reconciliation, and encourage legislators to pass such reform;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Nebraska Democratic Party shall send a copy of this resolution to all members of Congress who represent any of our members.