Yesterday President Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” in Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson’s vote against the Democrat finance bill.
Nelson voted with every other Republican, against every other Democrat to not let the finance bill go forward.
Nebraska’s other senator, Republican Mike Johanns also voted against cloture on the bill. So the local fishwrap asks, “How are Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns different then?”
As has been told in the news throughout the country, the richest man in America, Omaha’s Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, was pressing for an exemption on derivatives in the bill. (You can read the details on how and why using your Google Machine.)
Ben Nelson supported that language in the bill from his Agriculture Committee.
And Mike Johanns voiced his support for that language as well.
Ben Nelson voted his version, with the Berkshire language, out of the Ag Committee.
But Mike Johanns knew that the rest of the bill stunk, and voted AGAINST the bill out of committee.
In the end however, the White House stopped the Berkshire language from making it into the final bill. So Nelson voted against that final version of the bill.
And here’s the rub: Had the Berkshire language made it in, BEN NELSON WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR THE FINAL BILL. Pure and simple.
Sure, now he says the bill is “bad for Main Street”, or that he needed to read it some more, or some such. But if Buffett’s language had survived, Nelson would have voted for it.
Mike Johanns voted against the bill in committee, on the floor, and would not have supported the final bill, even with Warren’s Berkshire language.
And there’s your difference.
And what about that relationship between Nellie and Warren?
Here’s an interesting one for you. (And this is ALL second hand, completely hearsay, and if you want to dismiss it out of hand, that’s your right and option. But we’ve heard this from a few different sources.)
Back in December 2009, Ben Nelson was hemming and hawing about how he would vote on health care reform and what would make him vote or not vote for it. You will remember that Nelson was the deciding vote.
So, we’ve heard, the White House called Nelson and asked him who would be most helpful in getting his “No” vote to “Yes” on Health Care reform.
Nelson told them, The Omaha Oracle. Warren Buffett.
So Buffett calls Nelson, at the request of the White House. And Nelson then goes to the White House to cut the deal.
You’ll recall that Buffett later called Nelson’s vote, “courageous“.
But what could Buffett have said to convince Nelson to make the deal?
So here are a few interesting caveats to the whole realtionship.
You could call Warren Buffett a pretty dependable Democrat supporter. That’s the way he has decided to roll.
But his chief lieutenant — and many assume his successor at Berkshire — is David Sokol, a big Republican backer.
So what if Nelson decides to run in 2012? Does Sokol support Nelson’s opponent?
That’s tricky. In the past, Sokol was a backer of Jon Bruning — against the undecided Chuck Hagel.
But is he as close to Dave Heineman? Or does he consider himself more buds with Ben Nelson, even though the later is a Dem?
Not sure. In any case, consider this: The later part of Ben Nelson’s political career has been about trying mitigate his enemies. Remember that he approved Mike Johanns for Ag Secretary. That was a good way to get rid of a possible Senate race opponent.
By working the Buffett/Sokol angle, does Nelson now have the political chit in his pocket to have the Berkshire Boys call off the dogs in 2012?
We shall see.
In any case, just don’t think that Ben Nelson was against this bill because it was bad for “Main Street”. This is more about what’s good for Farnam Street, and thus, good for Ben Nelson.