Sanders: Dropping public option, Medicare buy-in 'disturbing'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday signaled he was hardly supportive of Democrats' decision to drop both the public option and the Medicare buy-in from their healthcare bill.

Said the senator en route to the Democratic caucus' meeting at the White House: "It's a very disturbing development, and we're looking at it."

It has already been a rough week for Senate Democrats, who now seem less united than ever on how the signature feature of their healthcare bill -- the public option -- might look.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as recently as last week heralded a possible public option alternative -- the Medicare buy-in -- as a sufficient compromise able to win the support of both liberals and centrists. But that arrangement quickly fell through, after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) made clear he neither supported the original government plan nor its replacement.

That led Democrats to consider dropping both provisions -- a conversation that delighted Lieberman and satisfied a few other centrists, but may have angered the caucus' liberal members, without whom 60 votes to defeat a filibuster is still a distant target for Reid and his colleagues.

Sanders is one of those much-needed votes, and it remains unclear whether he will accept a Senate healthcare bill without a robust government plan or an expansion of the Medicare entitlement.

Nevertheless, both Sanders and Lieberman will meet with President Barack Obama this afternoon, separate from the Democratic Caucus meeting occurring this afternoon at the White House.

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