- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

Sen. Blanche Lincoln said Friday morning she has not decided whether she’s going to vote to allow debate to start on the health care reform bill, despite reports that the Arkansas Democrat had informed party leaders of her decision.

Meanwhile, fellow Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced that he would vote in favor of the motion, arguing that he didn’t want to obstruct reform efforts and hopes to improve the legislation on the floor.

“The Senate should start trying to fix a health care system that costs too much and delivers too little for Nebraskans,” Mr. Nelson said in a statement, adding that his vote to proceed did not mean he was committed to supporting the bill in the end.

Because no Republicans plan to vote in favor of the procedural measure, Democrats need all 60 of their members of their caucus to vote with them on the measure, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, putting intense pressure on moderates to vote with the party.

Mr. Nelson, Ms. Lincoln and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu — all moderates — were the last holdouts, refusing to commit either way on whether to allow formal floor debate to start on Democrats’ plan to reshape the nation’s health care system.

Ms. Lincoln said she’s “still reading the bill” to “make sure there is more good than bad.”

Earlier in the day, Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat and majority whip, told reporters that Ms. Lincoln had informed Majority Leader Harry Reid how she plans to vote but wouldn’t say what she said.

Ms. Lincoln is heading into a challenging reelection campaign next year in a state that voted for Sen. John McCain in last year’s presidential election.

A Zogby International poll released Thursday found that in an initial match-up against a potential Republican opponent, state Sen. Gilbert Baker, Ms. Lincoln held a 41 percent to 39 percent lead.

When asked how voters would feel if Ms. Lincoln voted in favor of the health bill, she fell behind 49 percent to 37 percent.

Nearly half of voters responding to the poll — 48 percent — said they would be less likely to back Ms. Lincoln’s reelection if she supported the bill.

Mr. Nelson in his statement made clear he is undecided about whether to support the health overhaul in the end.

“Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct. That’s what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about,” he said. “It is not for or against the new Senate health care bill released Wednesday. It is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements. If you don’t like a bill, why block your own opportunity to amend it?”

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