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Nelson's pre-defense?

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Sen. Ben Nelson sure sounds like he's leaning "yes" on a cloture vote with this statement below. He released the following after his meeting with Majority Leader Harry Reid this afternoon, and he sure goes out of his way to explain what a vote in favor or cloture would mean.

And these might be the key phrases in here: "In reality, the meaning of the motion to proceed is very simple:  It's a motion to commence debate and an opportunity to make changes. Let me say it again: it is a motion to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it."

Statement in full after the jump:

"Once Senator Reid releases his merged health care bill and the Congressional Budget Office fiscal analysis I and my colleagues will need adequate time -- over several days -- to review both. Later this week, the Senate is expected to vote on a motion to proceed, which needs 60 votes to pass. As I've said many times before I won't decide how I'll vote on the motion to proceed until I know what I'm voting on. 

But I would like to explain what that vote means because there's been a lot of commentary in the media, by special interest groups and in Congress offering definitions.

Some who define it as a vote in favor of the Reid bill are misinformed, or are intentionally trying to mislead people. I remember that some in my party said the same thing—equating this procedural vote with a vote for a bill—when the Republicans were in charge. If your goal is to obstruct, that's a convenient argument.

But it didn't stop me from reaching across the aisle and working with a Republican majority and a Republican president for bipartisan improvements to legislation.

Some who define it as supporting or opposing President Obama and his agenda do so because they either want him to succeed or fail. And some who define it as the last chance to stop bad legislation have a political agenda: They want to kill any health care bill Congress considers this year for leverage in next year's congressional elections.

That's more of the old Washington political gamesmanship people are fed up with. It's not about working together on a bipartisan basis for the good of the American people. It's not about taking time to get the right health care bill.

In reality, the meaning of the motion to proceed is very simple:

It's a motion to commence debate and an opportunity to make changes.

Let me say it again: it is a motion to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it.

If you don't like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it? Why would you stop senators from doing the job they're elected to do—debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?

But before I say yes or no on that motion to proceed, I believe Nebraskans want me to have adequate time to read the bill and to study its costs. That's just common sense.

To do otherwise would be like deciding before the opening kickoff of a football game to punt on first down. Once I have the ball -- or the bill -- and can assess the situation, I'll be ready to call a play."