Ben Nelson

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Ben Nelson currently serves as the Sr. Senator for Nebraska

Earl Benjamin Nelson a Democrat, is currently the senior Senator from Nebraska. He was first elected in 2000. (map)

Record and controversies

General information about important bills and votes for can be found in Congresspedia's articles on legislation. You can add information you find on how Ben Nelson voted by clicking the "[edit]" link to the right and typing it in. Remember to cite your sources!

H.R. 3590 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform)

On December 9, 2009, Senator Nelson was one of ten Democratic Senators to reach what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called a “broad agreement”[1]on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The discussion focused on abandoning or greatly narrowing the public health insurance option. In exchange, people 55-64 would be able to buy in to Medicare and Medicaid eligibility would be expanded to people within 150 percent of the federal poverty line. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office released a statement on the compromise:

"I asked Senators Schumer and Pryor to work with some of the most moderate and most progressive members of our diverse caucus, and tonight they have come to a consensus. 
It is a consensus that includes a public option and will help ensure the American people win in two ways: one, insurance companies will face more competition, and two, the American people will have more choices. I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my caucus. But I know we all appreciate the hard work that these progressives and moderates have done to move this historic debate forward. I want to thank Senators Schumer, Pryor, Brown, Carper, Feingold, Harkin, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Rockefeller for working together for the greater good and never losing sight of our shared goal: making it possible for every American to afford to live a healthy life.

As is long-standing practice, we do not disclose details of any proposal before the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to evaluate it. We will wait for that to happen, but in the meantime, tonight we are confident." [2]

On December 17, 2009, Senator Nelson told a home-state radio station that he could not yet support the Democrats' health care legislation because provisions and language regarding insurance coverage for abortions as well as other concerns did not meet his requirements.

On December 19, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid secured the pivotal 60th vote after agreeing to the needs of Nelson.

Ben Nelson

The rewritten Senate bill reflects Nelson's demands for changes to existing abortion funding language, as well as increased federal aid for his home state and breaks for favored health care interests. [1] Nelson said that his concerns about abortion funding have been satisfied: "I have strongly held views and have fought hard to prevent federal funding for abortions." I believe we have accomplished that goal." [2] To see Nelson’s remarks in their entirety, please refer to the press conference above.

Iraq War

Nelson voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

In March 2007, it was revealed that Sens. Nelson and John Warner (R-Va.) had been discussing the possibility of breaking ranks and coming up with a compromise piece of legislation regarding the President's plan for a troop "surge" in Iraq and the over $120 billion Iraq War spending bill.

Main article: Congressional actions regarding President Bush’s 2007 proposed troop “surge” in Iraq

On March 15, Nelson was one of two Democratic Senators who voted against a joint resolution to revise U.S. policy in Iraq. The measure failed 48-50.

Main article: U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007 (H.R.1591)
For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Gang of 14

On May 23, 2005, Nelson was one of fourteen Senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus blocking the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the so-called "nuclear option". Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster one of President Bush's judicial nominees only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William H. Pryor, Jr.) would receive a vote by the full Senate. Subsequently, he was the only Democratic senator to vote in favor of Brown; he was later the first Democratic senator to support Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Vote against stem cell bill

Nelson was one of two Democrats in the Senate who voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 which would have lifted restrictions on stem cell research. It passed the Senate in a vote of 63-34. It was later vetoed by President George W. Bush. The other Senator was Bob Casey (D- PA).[3]

Main article: U.S. federal stem cell legislation#Senate

Vote to confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General

Nelson was one of six Democrats to vote in favor of confirming Michael Mukasey as Attorney General. The controversial vote's final tally was 53-40 in favor of confirmation. [4]



Nelson was born May 17, 1941 in McCook, Nebraska. Nelson earned a BA (1963), Master's degree (1965), and Juris JD (1970) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was an attorney and insurance executive before being elected governor as a in 1990, and was easily reelected in 1994. During his first race for governor, he ran against Kay A. Orr.

Nelson left the governor's office in 1999 after two terms. Instead he ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1996 but was defeated by Republican Chuck Hagel. He ran again in 2000 after incumbent Bob Kerrey, announced his retirement. Nelson won with 51% of the vote.

Senate career

Nelson is among the leading conservative Democrats in the Senate. Nebraska has traditionally been a conservative state and Nelson's relatively conservative record has resulted in high approval ratings.

He voted twice, with three other Democrats, to end Senate debate over President Bush's United Nations Ambassador nominee John Bolton. He was one of only two Democratic senators to vote against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Nelson supports eliminating the estate tax and voted in favor of both the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. He has voted with Republicans on matters of bankruptcy reform, environmental protection, lawsuit reform, and trade. He opposes most gun control laws and supports expanding use of the federal death penalty. He was one of only three Democratic senators to vote to invoke cloture on the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. Nelson has also voted against increasing funds for Head Start and energy assistance for people with low incomes. Votes such as these have often placed Nelson, perceived by most political observers as a moderate conservative, at odds with the leadership of his party. Democratic Party Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said that Nelson is probably the most conservative Democrat in the entire Senate caucus [3] [4].

Nelson is one of several Democrats in the Senate with a pro-life voting record. Nelson is a member of the Democrats for Life of America, a national organization for pro-life members of the Democratic party that advocates a 95% reduction in the number of abortions performed over the next 10 years. Nelson has also opposed legislation put forth by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that aimed to reduce the number of abortions by making sex education and contraceptives more available, putting Nelson in the same column as many conservative Republicans.

2006 elections

In 2006, the Republicans nominated Pete Ricketts to face Nelson in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) [5] Nelson retained his seat.

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00005329&cycle=2006</crpcontribdata>

Links to more campaign contribution information for Ben Nelson
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Committees and affiliations


Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

More background data

Wikipedia also has an article on Ben Nelson. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


DC Office:
720 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2705
Phone: 202-224-6551
Fax: 202-228-0012
Web Email

District Office- Lincoln:
287 Denny Federal Building
100 Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, NE 68508
Phone: 402-441-4600
Fax: 402-476-8753

District Office- Omaha:
7602 Pacific Street, Suite 205
Omaha, NE 68114
Phone: 402-391-3411
Fax: 402-391-4725

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Shailagh Murray and Lori MontgomeryDeal on health bill is reached "Washington Post", December 20, 2009
  2. Patricia Murphy Health Care Breakthrough: Ben Nelson Will Vote for Health Reform “Politics Daily,” December 19, 2009
  3. Jeffrey Young. "Senate passes stem cell research bill," The Hill. April 11, 2007.
  4. Manu Raju. "Senate Approves Mukasey Nomination," The Hill. November 9, 2007.



Local blogs and discussion sites

Corresponding article on Wikipedia and Cause Caller. (If Cause Caller link does not work, pick from its list of senators and representatives.)

Current Office: U.S. Senate
111th Congress
Leadership Position:
Committees Chaired:
Ranking Member On:

110th Congress
Leadership Position:
Committees Chaired:
Ranking Member On:

Committees: Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry/Subcommittee on Energy Science and Technology, Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry/Subcommittee on Domestic and Foreign Marketing Inspection and Plant and Animal Health, Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry/Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization Conservation Forestry and Credit, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Appropriations/Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, Senate Committee on Appropriations/Subcommittee on the Financial Services and General Government, Senate Committee on Appropriations/Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Senate Committee on Appropriations/Subcommittee on Interior Environment and Related Agencies, Senate Committee on Appropriations/Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, Senate Committee on Appropriations/Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senate Committee on Armed Services/Subcommittee on Personnel, Senate Committee on Armed Services/Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Committee on Armed Services/Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
Congressional Career
First Elected to Current Office:
November 7, 2000
First Took Current Office:
January 3, 2001
Next Election:
November 6, 2012
Term Ends:
Freshman Member?
Previous Political Work?
Nebraska governor
Other Party Membership:
District Offices:
1. 287 Denny Federal Building, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, NE 68508
Phone: 402-441-4600 / Fax: 402-476-8753
2. 7602 Pacific Street, Suite 205, Omaha, NE 68114
Phone: 402-391-3411 / Fax: 402-391-4725

Campaign Contact:

Webform Email: / Email:

Campaign Offices:

Phone: / Fax:

Zip Code Affiliations:

Date of Birth: May 17, 1941