Nelson has made a point of being a particularly difficult vote for the Senate Democrats over the last couple of years. First, Nelson threatened to filibuster health care reform if it included a public option and then held out for such a particularly sweet deal for Nebraska that it almost derailed the whole bill.
Nelson ultimately supported financial reform legislation as well, but flirted with the idea of derailing the bill to ensure that Elizabeth Warren wasn't named to be head of the new Consumer Bureau.
Evidently, he was holding out for Omaha native Warren Buffett.
But it's hard to figure out any reason for Nelson's opposition to the Kagan nomination. Here's Nelson's statement.
I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns raised by Nebraskans, or to reach a level of comfort that these concerns are unfounded. Therefore, I will not vote to confirm Ms. Kagan’s nomination . . .Translating into something less obtuse and convoluted: "Yeah, I was surprised to find that some people in the largely Republican state of Nebraska had some objections to Kagan. Being too lazy to check out Kagan's nomination, I pretty much decided to vote "no" for the hell of it."
Of course, there's the possibility that I'm being unfair to Nelson. There might be some reasoning behind his opposition to Kagan after all.
Nelson not only announced his "no" vote on Kagan, he also announced that he would not support any kind of filibuster for the nomination. With five Republican votes in favor of confirmation, that means there should be 63 or 64 votes in favor of "cloture" should the Republican leadership mount their 5,000th filibuster of this legislative session.
In other words, Nelson is voting "no," but his decision not to filibuster means that Kagan's confirmation is pretty much in the bag.
Ultimately, Nelson might just be reminding the White House and Democratic leadership that they'll still have to work for his support on any important legislation in the future.
That's why I'm proposing that the White House give Ben Nelson the kind of honor he deserves as the most important member of the United States in this crucial time in American history.
That's why I'm suggesting that the Obama administration rename the White House the "Ben Nelson Presidential Residence" and start referring to their operation as the "Nelson House."
"Nelson House Tours" would begin promptly at 9:00am, pictures of Ben Nelson would be on the wall next to the pictures of George Washington, and sleeping in the "Nelson bedroom" would be the ultimate perk for friends of Obama.
That way, the Obama administration could reassure Ben Nelson that they think he's REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT.