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The Senate is once again the only thing standing between life and death for the $10 billion superconducting super collider.

The House voted 280-150 Thursday to kill the project already being built in Texas. The House also voted to pull the plug on the super collider last year, but the Senate rode to its rescue.This year, however, backers say the 130-vote chasm separating House opponents and supporters sends the Senate a strong message that may be difficult to overcome.

"The House didn't give us a lot to build on," said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas. "I don't think it's fatal . . . we still have an opportunity to do what we did last year. But it's disappointing."

House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., was even less encouraging. Asked Friday if the super col-li-der could be saved, Foley said, "I don't know. It's a very large vote in the House and there's no question that there's a very strong opinion against it, so I don't know whether it can be saved or not."

President Clinton said he "always anticipated that if we were going to save the super collider it would have to come in a conference after the Senate did it."

Before Thursday's vote, the Clinton administration informally renewed a Bush administration request for Japan to help fund the collider, Japanese embassy sources said. They said senior Japanese and U.S. officials are considering meeting after the July 7-10 Tokyo economic summit to discuss the request if funding for the project is restored.

But Japanese scientists are vehemently opposed to the project, saying that in a sluggish economy they need the funds to do their own research.

The Japanese sources said Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa - who last week was forced to step down - had viewed the first request as a way to make a friendly gesture to former President George Bush. Last year, Miyazawa had agreed to create a discussion task group to review the request. But other Japanese officials vetoed the idea.