Sen. Joe Lieberman was for a Medicare expansion before he was against it.
Democrats circulated video Monday from a Connecticut newspaper's interview in September showing Lieberman voicing support for a so-called Medicare buy-in allowing uninsured people as young as 55 to purchase coverage.
The Connecticut independent, whose vote is critical to the health care reform bill's prospects, had threatened Sunday to join Republicans in opposing health legislation permitting a buy-in.
The video from an interview with The Connecticut Post shows Lieberman talking about the health care reform proposals he has backed over the years, including during his 2006 re-election campaign.
"My proposals were to basically expand the existing successful public health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid," the senator said.
Lieberman said he was focused on helping older people who needed health insurance get it at more affordable prices.
"When it came to Medicare I was very focused on a group post 50, maybe more like post 55. People who have retired early, or unfortunately have been laid off early, who lose their health insurance and they're too young to qualify for Medicare and what I was proposing was that they have an option to buy into Medicare early and again on the premise that that would be less expensive than the enormous cost. "
Lieberman's spokesman Marshall Wittmann said Lieberman's comments were made before the Senate health care bill, which includes health insurance subsidies, was finalized. Wittmann said Lieberman believes the subsidies make a Medicare buy-in program redundant. A buy-in program would be an additional financial burden on the Medicare program, he said.
"This would be a redundant program that would unnecessarily put the Medicare program in greater financial jeopardy," Wittmann said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is hoping to pass health care reform legislation by Christmas, needs 60 votes to overcome Republican objections and had been counting on Lieberman to provide one.
Lieberman, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, has angered many liberals who say he's trying to derail their sweeping health care reform push. Lieberman faces re-election in 2012 in a state where President Barack Obama is popular. He backed GOP Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential contest, a move that drew the wrath of many Democrats.
Lieberman lost the Democratic nomination for re-election the last time he ran, in 2006. He went on to win re-election as an independent. Even so, he retains his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, a post he holds at the pleasure of the Democratic-controlled Senate.