Thursday, February 25, 2010

With Friends Like Ben Nelson ...

Last month, I wrote about how Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska told a reporter in his home state that it had been a mistake to take on health care reform before dealing with the economy — even though he had insisted that, because of the congressional compromise on which he worked that permitted the stimulus package to move through Congress a year ago, voters could call him and the others who hammered out the compromise "the jobs squad."

Those jobs haven't materialized, even though Nelson's words implied that they would start showing up quickly.

Well, anyway, fast forward to February 2010. A $15 billion jobs bill apparently sailed through the Senate yesterday by a 70–28 vote. Fifty–five Democrats, two independents and 13 Republicans supported it in what was, as Carl Hulse wrote for the New York Times, "a show of bipartisan consensus that has been rare on Capitol Hill in recent months."

Care to guess who was the sole Democrat to oppose the bill? Yep. Ben Nelson.

Hulse reports that Nelson singled out spending as his primary concern.
"What I'm hearing from Nebraskans is that we don't need to spend more money right now. We need to give the stimulus bill we passed a year ago more time to work — saving and creating jobs, and providing tax relief."

Sen. Ben Nelson

Words fail me — well, almost.

A senator who played a key role in the passage of a trillion–dollar pork–laden stimulus package and then boasted about all the jobs it would create (quick reality check — unemployment was at 8.9% last February, and it had risen to 10.6% by January of this year) now says he isn't supporting a bill that is aimed specifically at creating jobs (but carries a price tag that is a fraction of what the stimulus cost) because a year isn't enough time for the stimulus package to accomplish that.

Just how much time does he think the unemployed can give him and his colleagues to come through on jobs?

Admittedly, this may be more lip service designed to persuade the unemployed that Congress really is trying to help them — when the real goal is to pacify them until they cast their votes for the re–election of endangered Democrats this fall.

But it's something. And something is better than nothing.

And, I guess, if you're a Democrat in a Republican state like Nebraska, you're always endangered.

But roughly one–third of the Senate's Republicans voted for the bill.

So if you're a Republican voter in Nebraska (and 48% of voters in Nebraska are Republicans) and you have a choice in 2012 (when Nelson is scheduled to face the voters again) between a genuine Republican and a Republican Lite, who you gonna choose?

I guess it's a good thing for Nelson that he's got a couple of years to figure that one out.

Too bad the unemployed don't have that luxury.

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