Letter from United States Senator Ben Nelson

The article ‘Politics Trumps Principle’ which was carried on the front page of our last edition was submitted by Pro-Life Chairman Matt Nelligan. Senator Nelson, who was mentioned therein was kind enough to provide an addendum to the article for the record. In response to the article, Senator Nelson wrote:

“I was both surprised and disappointed to read the article “Politics Trumps Principle” on the cover of the National Hibernian Digest for the months of January and February 2010.  I am writing to clarify what is a misunderstanding regarding my efforts to support life in the Senate health care bill.

The article correctly points out that I offered the Nelson, Hatch, Casey, et al amendment, which was tabled by a vote of 54-45.  During discussions with leadership, I then offered an alternative to protect against using federal funds to pay for elective abortions.  The writer is mistaken in criticizing this language as not protecting life.

A legal opinion from one of Nebraska’s most respected law firms concluded that my language prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, provides that plans are not required to offer abortion coverage, permits all states to prohibit abortion coverage in their respective jurisdictions, and preserves existing federal law with respect to conscience protection.

Any disagreement about the intent or effect of this language seems to me to be about preferred wording, rather than substantive effect.  Thus, the question as to whether this language bars federal funds from paying for elective abortions has been conclusively answered by this legal opinion.  It does.  Principle trumps politics.

To question my pro-life commitment is inexcusable.  I was a pro-life adoptive parent twenty years before I entered politics.  As Nebraska’s governor in 1991, I helped the legislature pass pro-life legislation for waiting periods and parental consent.  My pro-life voting record for two terms in the United States Senate is unquestioned.  Armchair quarterbacking aside, I have never sacrificed this or any of these principles for political purposes.

The suggestion that I extracted an unfair Medicaid promise for my state is equally untrue.  I pointed out an unfunded mandate to be borne by all the states in 2017 and suggested that it be fixed.  Whatever my state is to get should be extended to all states as well.  Incidentally, I was asked by the Nebraska Governor to pursue this unfunded mandate since it would result in an undue hardship on our state’s fiscal capacity.  It was my decision to seek relief not only for Nebraska but for all states as well.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to this mistaken attack on my character.

Erin go bragh, United States Senator Ben Nelson”