Senator Ben Nelson, D-Neb., announced Wednesday that he will vote against both Republican and Democratic funding bills later in the day when the Senate considers legislation to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year. "In my view, neither is serious," Nelson told reporters on a conference call. "These bills are loaded down with tricks, treats, gimmicks, and games."
The conservative Democrat, up for re-election in 2012, said he wants to see cuts on the order of magnitude passed by House Republicans, who approved $61 billion in cuts to this year's budget, cuts most Democrats have called "draconian."
And though Nelson clearly opposes the House bill, which he called "mean-spirited" and "bad for Nebraska," he did say, "I don't want to go closer to the middle. I want to go closer to the $50 billion range (in cuts)...I want to move closer to that higher number with rational cuts."
Nelson cited a number of cuts in the House GOP bill that he called "irrational," namely, cuts in funding for poison control, high speed internet service for rural areas (like Nebraska), HEAD Start, Pell grants, and community development grants.
"It will cost Nebraska hundreds of jobs," Nelson said of the GOP measure. Nelson joins one other Democrat, for now - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, also up for re-election in a red state in 2012, in voting against his own party's $4.7 billion in cuts. Manchin put the onus on President Obama, saying Tuesday, "Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations - our president - has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts he would be willing to fight for?"
But Nelson pointed no such finger at the president, rather, he put the blame in the laps of both parties. "As long as neither party is serious, it's pretty hard for him to accomplish anything," Nelson said of Obama.
Both GOP and Democratic leaders have been working hard to ensure their members support their own party's bill, a symbolic showing of strength for each position, though more defections on both sides of the aisle are expected.
As head of the Senate spending panel's subcommittee that funds the legislative branch, Nelson touted his own proposal to cut 5% from the budgets of the affected entities under his purview, including Congress, and said that could provide a roadmap to more spending cuts across the board. "In a trillion dollar (federal) budget," Nelson asked, "Is it too much to expect you can trim back 5%?"