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LEAVE BILL FACES UPHILL FIGHT IN HOUSE

Sponsors of a family-leave bill acknowledge they face an uphill battle to reach a two-thirds majority to follow the Senate in overriding President Bush's veto.

The House delayed its vote until Wednesday afternoon, giving backers the previous weekend to round up support for the issue, which Democrats are convinced helps presidential nominee Bill Clinton.While the bill's supporters conceded they remain well away from a two-thirds majority, they argued that Clinton's lead over Bush in the polls has given them a new argument in trying to win support. If Clinton is elected, they argue, an even tougher family-leave law will be enacted early next year.

"Clinton's for it," said Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., and one of the bill's sponsors. "Next time, we might be able to get a really stronger bill. We'll only need 218 votes then because we can get the president to sign it."

The bill would require businesses with 50 or more employees to give workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid - except for health-care benefits - job-protected leave to care for a sick family member or for the birth or adoption of a child.

Bush vetoed a similar bill in 1990 and again this month. He contends the bill is too costly to business.

The Senate voted 68-31 Thursday to override Bush. He so far has a perfect record of making his vetoes stick. But the Senate vote marked the first time of his presidency that body has voted to override.