WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's sweeping health care legislation won precious support from a longtime liberal holdout in the House on Wednesday and from Catholic nuns representing dozens of religious orders, gaining fresh traction in the run-up to a climactic weekend vote.

"That's a good sign," said Obama, two weeks after taking personal command of a campaign to enact legislation in what has become a virtual vote of confidence on his still-young presidency.

But Democrats delayed the planned release of formal legislation at least until Thursday as they sought to make sure it would reduce federal deficits annually over the next decade.

At the White House, Obama met with Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO. Officials said the labor leader raised concerns over the details of a planned excise tax on high-cost insurance plans as well as other elements of the as-yet-unreleased legislation.

The long-anticipated measure is actually the second of two bills that Obama hopes lawmakers will send him in coming days, more than a year after he urged Congress to remake the nation's health care system. The first cleared the Senate late last year but went no further because House Democrats demanded significant changes — the very types of revisions now being packaged into the second bill.

Together, the measures are designed to extend coverage to more than 30 million who now lack it and ban the insurance industry from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. Obama also has asked lawmakers to slow the growth of medical spending generally, a far more difficult goal to achieve.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich's announcement in the Capitol made him the first Democrat to declare he would vote in favor of the legislation after voting against an earlier version, and he stressed he was still dissatisfied with key parts.

"I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see it but as it is," said the Ohio lawmaker, who twice ran for president advocating national health care. "If my vote is to be counted, let it now count for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform."

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

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