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Why Ben Nelson Voted No

April 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] surprised just about everyone when he voted “no” Monday evening on beginning debate of the Democrats’ financial reform bill. Immediately, speculation began circulating that he voted against the bill to curry favor with legendary investor Warren Buffet, a constituent, who had a regulatory exemption he supported for existing derivative contracts removed from the bill just one day prior.

The jury’s still out on that. Nelson hasn’t admitted to protecting Warren Buffet’s interests. Instead, he issued a confounding statement on his vote that begins like this:

“I cannot support proceeding on a bill I haven’t seen, but no one should view my vote today as an indication that I won’t support the bill currently being negotiated by the Banking Committee. I look forward to seeing what the Committee develops on a bipartisan basis with Republicans, then I will have something concrete to consider.

Not concrete enough? The bill they were voting on, H.R. 3217, is largely similar to the financial reform bill that was passed by the House last December. It has been publicly available in its final version since March 15, when Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] put it online as a draft in PDF form. It has been an official piece of legislation in Congress since April 15, and we have had the full text posted online on OpenCongress for ten days now. For Nelson to say that he hasn’t seen the bill can only be interpreted as meaning that he hasn’t put in the effort to find it and read it. It has been online for months in its rough form and weeks in its final form. That should be plenty of time for a senator that is taking the issue seriously to review the bill and decide whether it is worthy of debate.

When Nelson says that he is looking forward to seeing the bipartisan bill that the Banking Committee is negotiating, he is supporting the process by which the Democrats pull the bill from open debate on the floor and move it to behind-the-scenes deal making. That’s what they have been forced to do by the Republicans’ unanimous opposition and Ben Nelson “no” vote.

In case you’re curious, you can read the full Nelson statement here. He goes on to say that he supports Wall Street reform in general, but that he is worried that the current bill would negatively affect “Main Street.”

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