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Dennis Kucinich to hold his nose but will vote yes on healthcare

Still not a big fan of President Obama's healthcare bill, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich on Wednesday said he would vote yes for the legislation.

By Alan Fram and Ricardo Alonso-ZaldivarAP / March 17, 2010

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, voted against the House Democratic bill in November because it did not go far enough, but said on Wednesday that the bill coming before the House represents the best chance to expand coverage to the uninsured, even if it does not include a public plan.

Jim Young/Reuters/File

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Washington

President Barack Obama's much-challenged health care overhaul gained traction Wednesday as a liberal lawmaker became the first to switch his opposition and Catholic nuns declared their support in an unusual public break with the bishops.

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, long a supporter of Medicare-for-all, voted against the House Democratic bill in November because it did not go far enough in creating a robust government-run plan to compete with private insurance. But Kucinich said Wednesday that the bill coming before the House represents the best chance to expand coverage to the uninsured, even if it does not include a public plan.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Kucinich said his decision was a combination of pragmatism and concern about the impact that defeat of the health care bill would have on Obama's presidency.

"You do have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama's presidency not be destroyed by this debate," said Kucinich. "Even though I have many differences with him on policy, there's something much bigger at stake here for America."

Kucinich said he'd met with Obama four times to discuss the health overhaul, most recently on Monday when he flew back to Ohio with the president aboard Air Force One. Obama called Kucinich's decision "a good sign."

At stake is a bill that would cover some 30 million uninsured people, end insurance practices such as denying coverage to those with a pre-existing conditions, require almost all Americans to get coverage by law and try to slow the cost of medical care nationwide. The comprehensive legislation could affect nearly every American, from those undergoing annual checkups to people facing major surgery.

Democratic leaders hope to vote this weekend.

Meanwhile, in a rare public disagreement that will reverberate among the nation's 70 million Catholics, leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 nuns sent lawmakers a letter urging lawmakers to pass the Senate health care bill. Expected to come before the House by this weekend, the measure contains abortion funding restrictions that the bishops say don't go far enough.

"Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," said the letter signed by 60 leaders of women's religious orders. "It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments ... in support of pregnant women. This is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."