Democrat Nelson to retire from Senate

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:46pm EST

U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) talks to reporters about his views on voting on healthcare legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 19, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) talks to reporters about his views on voting on healthcare legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 19, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Senator Ben Nelson said on Tuesday he will retire next year, dealing a significant blow to his party's hopes of keeping control of the Senate in the November 2012 election.

Nelson's decision not to seek re-election puts his seat in heavily Republican Nebraska up for grabs, boosting Republicans' hopes of wresting control of the chamber from Democrats.

Republicans already have a majority in the House of Representatives, where they have heavily resisted many of President Barack Obama's spending plans over concerns about a build-up of U.S. deficits and debt levels.

Nelson, 70, was already seen as vulnerable. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had spent more than $1 million to shore up his re-election campaign. It must now scramble to find a replacement candidate.

Announcing his retirement, Nelson said it was "time to move on" and urged those following him "to look for common ground and to work together in bipartisan ways to do what's best for the country, not just one political party."

Obama, in a statement from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family, also noted the senator's work to bridge partisan divides at a time when Washington has struggled to overcome political gridlock.

"Ben's commitment to working with both Democrats and Republicans across a broad range of issues is a trait far too often overlooked in today's politics," Obama said.

The Democrats' slender majority in the Senate is under threat in the November 2012 elections.

Republicans only have to defend 10 seats, while 23 Democratic senators are up for re-election, including vulnerable incumbents in Ohio, Missouri, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Democrats now hold 51 Senate seats. Republicans control 47, and there are two independents.

It is unclear who might replace Nelson as the Democratic candidate.

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, a popular figure in Nebraska, has been widely talked about as a potential replacement, but he has not said whether he would enter the race.

The Republican field is led by state Attorney General Jon Bruning.

(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis in Honolulu; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (3)
Gen wrote:
Nancy and Harry threw all the blue dog democrats over the cliff forcing through a bad health care bill….. remember 3-1/2 years ago when several leading socialist democrats treated centrist democrats like they were traders.
The Democrats had a chance to lead but instead they imploded over healthcare. ( And a very poorly written health care law as well)

The Republicans flundered when they had the mantle for 6 years and not to be out done the Democrats flundered in 2 years…..
Too much politics and not enough leadership in both parties.

Dec 27, 2011 5:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
doggydaddy wrote:
Great, the Republicans are screwing the Middle Class out of the American dream and yet they might take control of the Senate. Our country deserves to be in the mess it’s in. The only thing that’s really going well for us is our foreign policy. It’s no coincidence that foreign policy is the one area where the Republicans don’t have much influence, that is unless they win the Presidency. We’ll really be screwed if the Republicans control both the House and the Senate. It will be one big party for the corrupt lobbyists.

Dec 27, 2011 5:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
Once the people in Nebraska found out that Republicans in Washington are even better at handing out pork than Democrats, they swung Republican. Most of Ethanol Tax-Credit Middle-America is in the same boat. GOP is the new FDR.

Dec 27, 2011 6:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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