Bill Nelson prepared to support 'nuclear option,' not so on ENDA
Sen. Bill Nelson said today he would support employing the "nuclear Option" to break Republican filibusters on executive appointments, but hopes it doesn't come to that.
"The president is entitled to be able to fill the positions in the executive branch in order for him to be able to govern," Nelson said in an interview.
Nelson said he respects rules that protect the minority but argued they have been abused to block nominees over reasons other than qualifications. He cited the hold on Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which the GOP loathes.
If Majority Leader Harry Reid utilizes the option, the senate could end filibusters on nominees with a simple majority.
Doing so would fuel deeper partisanship. "That's why senators want to avoid it," Nelson said. "And that's why we're having this meeting Monday night." All senators have been called together for an informal talk on filibusters.
Nelson's name came up during today's White House press briefing as one of only three Senate Democrats not to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA. Reached by telephone shortly afterward, Nelson noted he previously supported the legislation, which extends protections to gays and lesbians, but is hung up over the inclusion of transgendered people.
The bill cleared a committee this week, and Reid wants to bring it to a floor vote.
Nelson said he has a range of outstanding questions, including whether private business insurance policies would have to pay for sex changes.
"There are so many ramifications. What is the responsibility of an employer to provide facilities, for example, for someone who dresses, thinks, acts, has had hormone treatments as a woman, but who has not had the operations? Is that person allowed to go into the women’s restroom? There are just a whole host of issues that I haven't worked through."
But Nelson refused to say how he might vote on the final bill. "I'm not going to lock myself in. I've told you what my reservations are."
The two other Democrats are Mark Pryor and Joe Manchin and a reporter asked as the bill heads to a vote will President Obama try to get them on board.
"I expect that we will try to encourage every member of the Senate to do the right thing and support that legislation," said Press Secretary Jay Carney.