WASHINGTON -- A consistent narrative is emerging from various sides of the health care debate: the White House is largely responsible for the removal of the popular public option from the reform legislation.
Two key players in the debate -- Howard Dean and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) -- have essentially agreed with Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) declaration on Sunday that "the lack of support from the administration made keeping the public option in the bill an uphill struggle."
In an MSNBC appearance Monday, Dean reversed his opposition to the Senate bill from last week, but didn't equivocate when asked by host Norah O'Donnell whether "the White House is in part to blame for the death of the public option."
"Yes," Dean said, without hesitating.
Dean added that he's unsatisfied with the Senate bill in its current form but will support its passage in the hope that it can be improved in conference committee.
Lieberman, whose refusal to support the public option was a prime cause of its removal, told the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim on Monday that the White House never pressured him to get behind it.
"I'd have to think about this, but I didn't really have direct input from the White House on this," Lieberman said, referring to the public option and Medicare buy-in compromise.
"When [Obama] came to the caucus he said, 'Just try to work this out as you get to the end here.' And I said, 'OK,'" Lieberman added. "Most of the negotiation I had on that was with Senator Reid."
President Obama has championed the public option on numerous occasions, but a number of progressives are now criticizing him for not putting enough pressure on Senators to back the provision in closed-door negotiations.
The Senate bill, which didn't include a public option or a supplemental Medicare buy-in, bypassed an attempted Republican filibuster early Monday morning as it achieved the 60 votes necessary to advance.
This video is from MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, broadcast Dec. 21, 2009.
--Video captured and uploaded by David Edwards