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Nelson Hopeful of Progress in Health Care Talks

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) emerged from a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Friday afternoon saying he hopes progress is being made in negotiations to secure his support for the health care bill but that he’s not on board with the package yet.

Nelson, a moderate who is viewed as the last Democratic holdout to supporting Reid’s health care reform package, declined to discuss details of the talks, which include other Democratic Senators and White House officials. Nelson wants the bill to include stronger language on abortion funding as well as other changes before he will sign on.

“Hopefully, we’re making a lot of progress. As I’ve said, there’s always a lot of room, which you have to have between the bid and the ask. And we’re seeing if we can close the gap,— Nelson told reporters.

Nelson said he was unsure if the negotiations would be successful by the time Reid begins the cloture process on the health care bill. Reid is expected to begin that effort on Saturday following final passage of the Defense spending bill. Reid is hoping to clear the health care package before Christmas, and to do so must begin the process of ending debate on Saturday.

Nelson wants language added to the reform bill guaranteeing that federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortion procedures. He has also expressed unhappiness with the legislation’s proposed tax hikes and expansion of Medicaid.

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