So, is Ben Nelson going to jump ship to the Republican Party some time before January 2011? After all, his opposition to some of President Obama’s key legislative issues (health care reform and labor reform) is now being compounded by his opposition to President Obama’s nominees. Steve Benen writes of Nelson:
In other words, a senator who claims to be a Democrat will not let a Democratic Senate vote, up or down, on some of a Democratic president’s nominees. It’s not enough to vote against them, Nelson wants to prevent his own Democratic colleagues from voting on them at all.
This doesn’t look like the actions of a Senator who is planning on staying within his party’s good graces for years and years to come.
Now, to game it out, Nelson is too junior on Ag, Appropriations, Armed Services & Rules to benefit from a seniority bump by switching parties. He’s exercised a lot of control over what happens with this Democratic caucus by being one of the last votes for any issue; switching parties would probably remove him from the cat bird seat of swing vote largess.
The real question regarding Nelson is whether Harry Reid or the White House will start getting tough on him. Will he be punished for opposing Craig Becker? Will he be forced to pay a price for demanding such a high price on his support for health care? If Senate leadership and the administration don’t get tough on Nelson, I’m sure he’ll be happy to keep being a problem child for years to come. But if Reid and Obama show some backbone and decide to stop getting pushed around by Nelson, they may give him an excuse he’s looking for to bolt the party and go help out the GOP full-time. That outcome may matter to some Democrats, but it certainly wouldn’t bother me a lick.