Ezra askes a good question yesterday, "Why aren't Senate Democrats angrier at Ben Nelson?"
If the economy really decides elections -- and there's plenty of evidence that it does -- then it stands to reason that nothing is more important in a given legislator's reelection campaign than the state of the economy. And, as we all know, the state of the economy is bad.
But it's not just bad: It's also worse than it has to be. And it's worse than it has to be in part because of Ben Nelson, who was instrumental in knocking more about $100 billion off the original stimulus, blocking the recent effort to extend unemployment benefits, and making it difficult for the Senate to contemplate further relief measures, like state and local aid.
Think Progress piles on.
Despite the fact that the unemployment rate is at a high 9.5 percent and that the benefits are the only source of income for many of those unable to find work, conservatives have demanded that spending on the benefits be offset before they vote for them (a demand they do not make for tax breaks for mulitmillionaires). In a statement explaining his decision to join conservatives to filibuster the extension, Nelson cited the relatively tiny deficit impact of extending them.
As does Huffington Post.
His extraordinary sensitivity extends to his own needs and those of his constituents, but not so much the needs of his party or other senators' constituents, whom he routinely leaves hanging. Only weeks into the Obama presidency, Nelson joined a handful of moderate Republicans to oppose spending in the stimulus and succeeded in reducing the bill's size. Throughout the health care reform debate, he held firm against the public insurance option, defending insurers who are major employers in his state. During the endgame of Wall Street reform, he briefly suggested he hadn't made up his mind about the bill after heaping praise on its latest revisions.
For the past several weeks, Nelson has joined the Republican party in filibustering a measure to restore unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, which lapsed at the beginning of June. The upshot: a legislative debacle that has made the entire Democratic party look ineffectual while 2.1 million people who've been out of work for longer than six months have missed checks. Economists no less mainstream than Mark Zandi, former advisor to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have said that the failure to reauthorize the benefits could jeopardize the economic recovery....
Nelson has been so consistently obstinate that Democratic leadership doesn't view lobbying him as very worthwhile. In fact, Harry Reid figures he'd have better luck with Brown, of all people, whom Reid called four times in 12 minutes before one of the votes that would have reauthorized extended benefits.
Two weeks ago Nelson told HuffPost he hadn't heard much from fellow Democrats about the bill. On Monday, HuffPost asked again if he'd felt any pressure to join his party.
"Some, not major, no," Nelson said. "I think they understand that my position is very clear. Let's pay for it."
Cue Greg Sargent on how Republican obstructionism--aided and abetted by Ben Nelson--on unemployment is affecting public opinion.
The most visible example of GOP obstruction yet has been the blockade of an extension of unemployment benefits. The poll shows the public overwhelmingly supports this extension -- and it also shows the public is deeply frustrated with the workings of Federal government. Yet despite these two facts, Republicans are now leading in the generic Congressional matchup....
Republicans are not paying any price for this. While the poll shows the GOP is not trusted on the economy, Republicans have edged ahead in the generic ballot matchup, 47-46. Anti-incumbent sentiment is soaring -- only one-fourth say they're inclined to re-elected their Representative -- which will also help Republicans. And a majority, 51 percent, support GOP control of Congress so it can act as a "check" on Obama's policies.
This clearly demonstrates that people have not connected GOP obstructionism with one of its most visible results: The prevention of the extended of unemployment benefits that a sizable majority says it wants....
Nelson obviously doesn't give a damn about the 38 Americans losing benefits every minute as he blocks this bill, apparently because they're not Nebraskans. He also apparently doesn't care about "his" party staying in the majority, happy to continue to play this game of enabling Republican obstructionists and making life as difficult as possible for, well, everyone who's not a Republican.