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Health Debate Resumes After GOP Stalling

This story was updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama suffered setbacks Wednesday in his attempt to win Senate passage of an overhaul of the health care system before Congress breaks for the Dec. 25 Christmas holiday.

Despite a one-on-one meeting, Obama failed to lock up the support of a moderate Democrat, Ben Nelson, whose vote is crucial for passage. Obama needs the support of all 58 Democratic senators and two allied independents to win passage of the bill.

Further complicating matters, a Republican who opposes the bill, Tom Coburn, sent the Senate into limbo by forcing the clerk to read aloud a 767-page amendment. The proposal later was withdrawn and debate resumed.

Obama repeated his demand for action, telling ABC News "the federal government will go bankrupt" if the health care bill fails. He said two government-run health programs, Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid, for the poor, are on an "unsustainable" path if no action is taken.

Obama has made the health care overhaul his top domestic priority. He campaigned on a promise to overhaul health care in the United States, where 50 million people are uninsured. Though Democrats control both chambers of Congress, they only narrowly won approval of a health bill in the House of Representatives. Special Report: Health Care

Passage has been more complicated in the 100-member Senate where Democrats need 60 votes. Despite a series of concessions to moderate lawmakers, Nelson remains a holdout because he has concerns about several issues including abortion, a divisive subject in American politics.

Nelson said his meeting with Obama had been their third in eight days.

Obama "made a strong case for passing health care reform now," Nelson said. "But I think it still remains to be seen if it was compelling."

Obama cajoled restive Democrats on Tuesday, urging them not to lose perspective amid intense intraparty battles over government's role and reach in health care when they are on the brink of passing health care reform legislation that has eluded presidents and lawmakers for decades.

If the Senate manages to pass a bill, lawmakers face the daunting task of reconciling it with the version approved by House. Both chambers would have to vote again to approve the final version of the bill.

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