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DEMOS VOW TO TAKE ON BUSH AS SENATE CONVENES

Congress convened its pre-election session Monday, with Democrats ready to challenge President Bush's pledge to veto any bill that spends more than he wants.

The Senate began work Tuesday, with the House expected to take up the Senate-passed family leave bill when it returns Wednesday. Bush vetoed a nearly identical bill two years ago, calling it a hidden tax on business.The measure would require companies with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a childbirth or medical emergency.

Bush served notice at the GOP convention last month that "if Congress sends me a bill spending more than I asked in my budget, I will veto it fast."

Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, said Bush "already has changed his position once. In 1988, he said he was for it, then he vetoed it. I hope the president now will go back to his original position and sign the bill."

Mitchell, interviewed on NBC's "Today" show, called the family leave bill "a very modest step" and "a tangible way to demonstrate strong support for families."

House Republicans banded together to prevent a veto override of the family leave bill two years ago.

Another possible subject for a veto battle is a bill to impose trade restrictions on China. The 102nd Congress so far has failed to override any of some 30 Bush vetoes.

Some conservatives would like to force another tax showdown in Congress before the election, but administration officials so far have indicated no desire for one. Bush has vowed to cut taxes if he wins a second term.

A potential fight looms over a $31 billion urban aid bill that initially was intended to revitalize inner cities in response to the Los Angeles riots. The measure has now become a grab bag of investment and tax incentives to help stimulate a continuing sluggish economy.