|U.S. Senator from Nebraska|
From: January 3, 2001 – Present
|Predecessor||J. Robert Kerrey|
|Successor||Incumbent (no successor)|
|Governor of Nebraska|
From: January 9, 1991 – January 7, 1999
|Predecessor||Kay A. Orr|
Earl Benjamin "Ben" Nelson, born May 17, 1941 (age 74), is the senior U.S. Senator from Nebraska and a member of the Democratic Party. He currently serves on the Committees on Appropriations, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Armed Services, and Rules and Administration. He has voted with Democrats 92% of the time during the current Congress, and faces an uphill battle to be reelected in 2012 in conservative Nebraska.
Ben Nelson was elected governor of Nebraska in 1990 and reelected in 1994. Nelson cut the sales and income tax, and $157 million in state spending. He was able to pass eight balanced budgets. He ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1996, but was defeated by Republican war hero Chuck Hagel. Nelson left the governor's office in January 1999 after two terms and was succeeded by Republican Mike Johanns. Nelson was again nominated by the Democrats for the Senate in 2000 after his fellow Democrat, incumbent Bob Kerrey, announced his retirement. Nelson won with 50.99% of the vote in a campaign in which he spent 50% more ($1,004,985) than his opponent. In 2006, Nelson was reelected by a much wider margin, winning with 64% of the vote.
Next to Zell Miller, Ben Nelson became the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, with his votes often placing him at odds with the leadership of the Democratic Party. A 2007 National Journal congressional vote rating placed him to the right of eight Senate Republicans.  He was one of only two Democratic senators to vote against the 2002 Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold). Nelson supports eliminating the estate tax and voted in favor with the Bush administration's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. He voted for the 2006 Federal Marriage Amendment. 
Nelson pretends to be pro-life, but voted for the pro-abortion ObamaCare. From 2007-2008 he earned an 85% rating from the National Right to Life Committee.  He voted for the imposition of criminal penalties when an unborn fetus was harmed during the commission of a crime and is against embryonic stem cell research. Nelson praised and voted for President Bush's two nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Additionally, he was the only Democrat who voted against the Senate confirmation of President Obama's second Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan.
Some of Nelson's positions fall well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party: he has consistently voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also opposed President Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq in January 2007. Under the Obama Administration, he has voted for Democratic initiatives such as health care reform, the economic stimulus package, and financial regulation.
In February 2009, Senator Nelson and Republican Susan Collins of Maine reached a deal that cut $100 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, with it still totalling $787 billion. It passed on a 60-38 vote. 
Ben Nelson voted to allow debate for an $848 billion health care reform bill  and announced he would vote for the final passage of the bill.  Nebraska was the lone state that received a controversial $100 million medicare expansion deal, after his 60th vote was pivotal. Once one of the most popular Senators in the nation, Nelson's approval ratings have plummeted to 40%.