ben nelson, filibuster, abortion, healthcare.jpgBefore I get to yesterday’s statement by pro-life Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson, from NE, a reminder that over 97% of bills approved for cloture (stop filibuster and allow debate) eventually pass. 60 votes are required for cloture but only 50 to pass a bill. Also read this excerpt from a statement by GOP Sen. Jim Demint of SC

But don’t be fooled by senators that will say they oppose a government takeover but just wanted to allow debate on health care, they are not being honest.
The simple fact is this: Any senator that votes to proceed to the Reid-Obama bill is voting for a government takeover of health care.
Why? Because, President Obama and Harry Reid cannot pass a government takeover without clearing 60 vote procedural hurdles in the Senate – but they also know that vulnerable Democrats likely cannot win reelection if they vote for this unpopular bill. So they want all Democrats to stick together on the vote to proceed, then some Democrats will vote against final passage of the bill and claim they tried to stop it….
Don’t let them vote for a government takeover of health care before they vote against it. The “vote to proceed” to Obamacare may be one of the most important votes any Senator takes.

Now Nelson’s statement:

Today, NE’s Senator Ben Nelson announced that he will vote for the motion to proceed to debate health care reform on the Senate floor and issued this statement….
“This weekend, I will vote for the motion to proceed to bring that debate onto the Senate floor. The Senate should start trying to fix a health care system that costs too much and delivers too little for Nebraskans.
“Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct. That’s what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about.
“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?
“As we have seen before, obstructionists are inviting a move toward reconciliation by opposing this first procedural vote. Let’s be clear. That route shrinks debate and amendments, eliminates bipartisanship and needs only 50 votes to pass a bill….
“In my 1st reading, I support parts of the bill and oppose others I will work to fix. If that’s not possible, I will oppose the 2nd cloture motion – needing 60 votes – to end debate, and oppose the final bill….

Here’s more on what Nelson meant by that last statement.
And about those 2nd 60 votes OpenCongress.org explains (and I don’t even pretend to fully understand this)…

On Saturday night at 8 pm ET, the Senate is scheduled to vote on defeating a filibuster of debating the shell bill, a motion also known as invoking “cloture.” That vote require a 3/5 majority (60 affirmative votes) to pass.
If it passes, Senate Republicans can then force Democrats to wait 30 hours before the Senate can hold a simple up-or-down vote on actually proceeding to debate the shell bill.
If cloture is invoked on Saturday night, that would put the up-or-down vote on proceeding to the bill on Monday morning at the earliest, though the Senate is currently scheduled to be on Thanksgiving recess then.
Once the motion to proceed has finally been approved, Senate Democrats will then move to defeat a 2nd filibuster of considering the bill. This one will actually be on the text of the health care bill, in the form of a substitute amendment. Democrats will again have to find 60 votes just to proceed to an up-or-down vote on replacing the text of the shell bill with the health care text.
That 2nd cloture vote will most likely happen on November 30, when the Senate returns from recess. Once it passes, it would set up another up-or-down vote on December 1st to begin debate of the health care bill text proper.
At that point comes the amendment process and, eventually, votes to end debate and pass the bill, which could possibly happen before Christmas but could also drag into 2010.
This Saturday’s vote is crucial. If it doesn’t pass, the health care reform effort will falter in a major way. Senate Democrats would be back to the drawing board to draft an entirely new bill designed to attract more votes.
But if Saturday’s vote is successful, the bill moves forward to amendment and likely to passage. The Congressional Research Service recently found that 97.6% of all bills that have cloture invoked on a motion to proceed are eventually given final approval by the chamber.

[HT for DeMint statement: St. Michael's Society; photo via Talking Points Memo]