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Did Chamber ad confuse its Nelsons?

Posted May 17, 2012 by William March

Updated May 17, 2012 at 02:59 PM

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad attacking Florida Sen. Bill Nelson for supporting the Obama administration’s health care reform plan appears to confuse Bill Nelson of Florida with Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, some news outlets have reported today.

Or does it?

The ad has been criticized by independent fact-checkers for making claims they call distorted or false, including the contention that the Affordable Care Act includes $500 billion in Medicare cuts and will force 20 million people to lose their employer-provided health insurance. You can see analysis of those contentions by the Annenberg Foundation’s here and here.

But the ad also suggests that Nelson—meaning Florida Bill, not Nebraska Ben—cast the deciding vote in the Senate to pass the health care plan.

In fact, according to widespread news reports at the time and since, Ben Nelson, long known as one of the Senate’s most conservative Democrats, was the last of the 60 yes-voting senators to commit to backing the bill in the decisive December 2009 vote, and was widely called the decisive vote.

Nelson cast that vote only after congressional leaders promised additional legislation to provide $100 million to Nebraska to cover potentially increased Medicaid costs. Sen. John McCain of Arizona called it the “Cornhusker Kickback.” Ben Nelson said the provision was merely a “placeholder” to make sure Nebraska wouldn’t suffer, and that he expected modifications to the legislation to come later to prevent the cost increases nationwide.

But chamber political director Rob Engstrom pointed out that the ad doesn’t say Bill Nelson cast “the deciding vote”—it says he cast “a deciding vote.”

With Republicans certain to filibuster the bill and only 60 senators voting yes, the minimum needed to end a filibuster, he noted, all the votes were “decisive.”

“Without Sen Bill Nelson from Florida, Obamacare would not be law today,” he said. “Any senator that supported it, without their vote it would not be law.”

The chamber has used the same phrasing, he said, in ads attacking at least three other yes-voting Democrats.

Here’s the ad.