President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul plan has cleared an important Senate hurdle but lawmakers warned yesterday of challenges ahead in winning support for passage, even among Obama’s own Democrats.

 

On Saturday, Senate Democrats gathered the 60 votes needed to open floor debate on the plan, which would make the biggest changes in the $2.5 trillion health care system in 40 years. It is the Obama administration’s top domestic policy initiative.

 

No Republicans backed the procedural motion and a handful of conservative Democrats, whose votes were crucial, supported the floor debate but remained uncommitted to the bill itself.

 

One of those was Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who said yesterday that he could not support the plan without big changes.

“If there are a whole host of other items that are the same as they are right now, I wouldn’t vote to get it off the floor,” Nelson said on ABC’s “This Week” news program.

Independent Sen. Jos-eph Lieberman, usually an ally of the Democrats, said he could not support the bill either if the “public option” — for a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private firms — stays in the bill.