Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2010

HOW BEN NELSON ROLLS.... Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska, yesterday, on a motion to proceed:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted Monday evening against beginning debate on his party's Wall Street reform bill.

Nelson, a centrist Democrat who also broke with his party on healthcare legislation and several jobs bills, joined Republicans in opposing the legislation.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska, in November, on a motion to proceed:

Nelson also underlined that this motion [to proceed] is merely "to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it" -- not a final vote to pass it.

"If you don't like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it?" Nelson said. "Why would you stop senators from doing the job they're elected to do -- debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?"

I don't know, Ben, why would a member stop senators from doing the job they're elected to do?

Nelson said in a statement that he "cannot support proceeding on a bill I haven't seen." But that's silly -- Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) published a draft more than a month ago, and released the official legislative language 10 days ago.

Of course, it's not exactly a mystery as to why Ben Nelson sided with Republicans to prevent a debate on Wall Street reform. The Democratic bill includes tough new restrictions on derivatives, and Warren Buffet, a billionaire Nebraskan, has tens of billions of dollars in derivatives contracts. Buffet, not surprisingly, has been urging Nelson to help protect his business, and the senator seems inclined to do what his wealthiest constituent wants.

Over the weekend, Nelson sought a special side deal (yes, again) that would have created an exemption, shielding existing derivatives from new regulations, and in the process relieving Buffet of any new burdens. Dodd thought this was absurd, rejected Nelson's plea, and apparently pushed Nelson into blocking a debate.

Note the shift in Democratic strategy, as compared to last fall: Dems are so confident Republicans will eventually come around on Wall Street reform, they don't feel the need to give in to Ben Nelson's ridiculous demands. With health care, Dems had no other options.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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It'd be different if the Democrats had held Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. We'd be seeing considerably more of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson.

Posted by: RepubAnon on April 27, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Nelson, a centrist Democrat who also broke with his party on healthcare legislation and several jobs bills, joined Republicans in opposing the legislation.
So The Hill defines Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn as "the center". Good to know.

Posted by: Jim on April 27, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

I believe the problem lies with the flexibility of oath taking of both Senators and Representatives. It is that insertion following "I, solemnly swear to uphold the" Then, each one can add, if they wish, "the dictates of Buffet, Wal*Mart, Goldman-Sachs, Archer, Midlands, Daniels, Texaco, AETNA, United Healthcare and the like. We are a nation being led by many Blanche Dubois types who are, merely, getting by due to the kindness of strangers. Yes, the Red Light still glows brightly outside the office of Ben Nelson.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 27, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Ben must've really liked going our for Trick-or-Treat when he was a kid; so much so that he's still wearing that donkey-mask over his wretched little elephant face to this day. Note to Ben:

You're trunk is showing....

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 27, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Nelson, a centrist Democrat who also broke with his party on healthcare legislation and several jobs bills, joined Republicans in opposing the legislation."

How long will it take Nelson's party to break with him?

Posted by: slader on April 27, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Billionaires are people tooo , almost ...

Posted by: FRP on April 27, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Buffett," not "Buffet." Just a personal pet peeve.

Posted by: Jacquie on April 27, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Buffett warns against derivatives in the Berkshire Hathaway 2002 annual report:

"I view derivatives as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system...The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear... In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal."

Read it all.

Posted by: shortstop on April 27, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Buffett, always, sets a MaHvelous buffet for Ben. You should see what goes into his Doggie Bags.

But, as Ben spent a great deal of his adult life in the insurance field, whether as counsel or President of an insuracne company or even as Insurance Commish of NE, it is fitting he has insured his coffers with great aplomb.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 27, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

God, I'de like to loosen a few teeth of the next journalist that calls Nelson a "centrist."

The guy hasn't got a centrist molecule in his fucking body.

The Dems need to hang Nelson out like a dirty rug and rhetorically beat him.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 27, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't put this all on Warren Bufffettt. What Ben Nelson took in from Berkshire Hathaway employees is a small percentage of the money he has shoveled in from the "Securities and Investments" industry.

http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=n00005329

But on the larger point, that Ben is the worst kind of prostitute, I agree.

Posted by: Ohioan on April 27, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Buffett's understanding and use of derivatives goes beyond the sound bite "weapons of financial destruction" always quoted, and even beyond Buffett's discussion in Berkshire's annual report. His criticism is not of derivates per se, but of how they are used, particularly with phony accounting, where both parties show profits, a clear impossibility.

It is also an arguable point that the Dems should not require him to post collateral, for his firm is definitely not overleveraged, and the Dems are disrupting a sound contract.

Derivatives should be regulated, but the regulation should not hurt sound contracts already in place.

Posted by: Bob M on April 27, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

"Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) published a draft more than a month ago, and released the official legislative language 10 days ago."

Yeah, but you had the Huskers' spring practice going on. Ben was concerned about who was going to be the quarterback behind Zac Lee.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 27, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Note the shift in Democratic strategy, as compared to last fall: Dems are so confident Republicans will eventually come around on Wall Street reform, they don't feel the need to give in to Ben Nelson's ridiculous demands."

A change I welcome. Sharp observation, Steve. IMO, if the Dems will just keep punching, and not stand around taking punches, it'll go a long way towards bringing around some of the waffling indies in Nov. Nobody wants to be on the side of a person whose letting themselves get beat up.
The Republicans have given the Dems such an embarrassing amount of campaign material this year, you'd think it'd be like shooting cats in a bathtub, but I'll wait and see...

Posted by: Kordo on April 27, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the travails of Ben as he walks slowly thinking, "Cody Green, Taylor Martinez, Warren Buffett?"

Posted by: berttheclock on April 27, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Warren does have a year of eligibility left.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 27, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Poor Ben Nelson, his favorite toy was taken away. If only there was a way for someone like him to offer a way to change the bill. Oh wait, he's a Senator and can write an amendment that will change the derivatives rule to Buffett's liking, then offer that amendment for consideration by the Senate. Maybe it could even get an up or down vote.

Or will the Democratic leadership not be allowing enough amendments so that Nelson could not submit such an amendment?

Posted by: meander on April 27, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I suppose young Mr Suh could leave an endowment for him.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 27, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I was under the impression that Warren Buffet thought that derivatives were the financial equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction and avoided them. When did he change?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on April 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Note the shift in Democratic strategy, as compared to last fall: Dems are so confident Republicans will eventually come around on Wall Street reform, they don't feel the need to give in to Ben Nelson's ridiculous demands. With health care, Dems had no other options."

Dems do have other options-- then AND now. Insist on majority votes. Use the nuclear option. Lack of progress isn't the Repubs fault, given the presently large Dem majorities. Strong progressive reformbilss on health care costs (not done in the Nixonian insurance reform bill already passed), finance reforand immigration reform will also help hold those majorities.

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