Don't let the smile fool you.
If you look closely, the senator kind of looks like he's gritting his teeth. That would be more like it for a man who just realized tonight -- with the election of a Republican to Massachusetts' "Kennedy seat" in the Senate -- that he pissed away his political career over health-care reform, and all he got was . . . well, nothing.
He thought he was getting the best deal he could get for Nebraska on the bill's proposed unfunded Medicaid mandates, but ended up getting roasted for the "Cornhusker kickback."
He thought he was getting the best deal he could for pro-lifers in an extremely hostile Senate, but his best deal turned out to be not good enough. Now all the state's pro-life activists hate his guts.
He thought he was looking out for all his boyz in the insurance industry by drawing a line in the sand over the "public option," but all the lobbyists' horses and all the lobbyists' men probably can't put Nelson's approval rating back together again.
Come on, the man can't even go out for a pizza now.
AND NELSON THOUGHT that, even if everything else went south, he at least could say his was the vote that gave the country health-care reform. Oops.
According to The New York Times, that's probably toast, too:
Scott Brown’s decisive Senate victory in Massachusetts imperiled the fate of the Democratic health care overhaul as House Democrats indicated they would not quickly approve a Senate-passed health care measure and send it to President Obama.WHO KNOWS? Maybe the Nebraska senator can pull it all back together before the 2012 election. Then again, maybe not.
After a meeting of House Democratic leaders Tuesday night even as Mr. Brown’s victory was being declared, top lawmakers said they were weighing their options. But the prospect of passing the health care overhaul by pushing the Senate plan through the House appeared to significantly diminish.
Noting that the election in Massachusetts turned on a variety of different factors such as the economy and local issues, Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland and a top party campaign strategist, acknowledged that resistance to the emerging health legislation also factored in the outcome of the Massachusetts race.
“Health care was also part of the debate and the people of Massachusetts were right to be upset about provisions in the Senate bill,” Mr. Van Hollen said, referring to “special deals” included in the bill to win the votes of Democratic senators and round up 60 votes.
The comment was a clear indication that Democrats were recalibrating their approach on health care, leaving them a diminishing and politically difficult set of choices.
Pushing the Senate plan through the House was favored by some lawmakers and strategists as a way to quickly deliver the president a bill on a signature domestic achievement, since it would require just one final House vote. Remaining problems could be worked out with a subsequent piece of legislation.
But many House Democrats expressed deep reservations about the Senate bill. Those complaints, combined with the message sent by the Massachusetts electorate, apparently were sufficient to leave Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants reluctant by Tuesday night about moving in that direction.
In that case, Ben Nelson just would have to settle for being a cautionary tale. As in, "Never, never ever dive on a political hand grenade to save a bill you don't really believe in in the first place."
Especially after a long, tortuous process during which you helped to take a pretty decent House bill and turn it into something that everybody could hate.