Senate Kills Nelson Amendment–Over To You, Bishops

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No surprise here. As expected, the Senate voted down the Nelson abortion amendment late Tuesday (technically, they voted to table the amendment, which is essentially the same thing as killing it) by a vote of 54 to 45. Pro-choice GOP Senators Snowe and Collins supported the move, while pro-life Democratic Senators Bayh, Casey, Conrad, Dorgan, Kaufman, Nelson (NE), and Pryor opposed tabling the measure.

Of that group of seven, only Nelson has said he will vote against final passage of health reform because of abortion (among other issues). Which leaves Harry Reid back where he was yesterday–either needing to jump through Nelson’s hoops to see if anything could convince the Nebraska senator to vote in favor of health reform, or turn his attention to Olympia Snowe.

Tuesday’s vote does put the Catholic bishops conference in the position of following through on its pledge to vigorously oppose health reform if Stupak/Nelson language is not included. That may seem like an automatic next step, and there’s certainly no indication that the bishops will change their minds after drawing this particular line in the sand. But remember that they never reached that point during House consideration because of the last-minute deal struck concerning the Stupak amendment. There is something symbolically more weighty about actually working to defeat health reform–a goal that the bishops have supported for decades–than just threatening to do so. And it might be a tougher sell among Catholics in the pews.