The Senate  should have taken up the "doc fix" bill that would overhaull the flawed payment formula for doctors who provide Medicare, said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Tuesday.

Stabenow, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, said that the "toxic situation" surrounding healthcare reform has wrongly politicized the "doc fix," which she said originally had bipartisan support. Many Republicans oppose the measure, calling it an unfunded bill that is designed to buy doctors' and seniors' support for broader healthcare reform.

"I was hoping we could get this done before we went into [the healthcare] debate," said Stabenow on ABC's "Top Line" web-cast. "It's a toxic situation right now, a partisan situation."

The proposal would stop a 21 percent cut in doctors' Medicare pay rates from occurring next year under the current pay formula.

Critics, however, say the 10-year, $245 billion measure is unfunded, meaning it will cut deeper into already ballooning national debt. They say that it violates Democrats' pledge to make healthcare reform "budget neutral."

Stabenow, who is a co-sponsor of the "doc fix," this morning appeared with officials from the American Medical Association and the AARP to promote the measure.

She fended off suggestions that she was engaging in horse-trading with the groups in exchange for their support for healthcare reform.

"I don't think they've made a decision yet on the reform bill," she said. 

Stabenow argued that the bill was needed to ensure that doctors do not drop patients whose insurance rates are tied to Medicare, such as seniors, the disabled, and military members.

Some Democrats, such as Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) say that the bill should bot be a stand-alone piece of legislation, instead preferring to combine with with existing healthcare reform legislation. Many Republican lawmakers insist that