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CLINTON DROPS HEALTH CARE FROM LIST OF '94 PRIORITIES

As moderate senators still try to devise an extensive health-reform bill for this year, Republicans say the effort is futile and President Clinton on Tuesday omitted health care from his list of 1994 legislative priorities.

Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell expressed confidence he could reach an agreement with moderates over limited health-reform measures although some "contentious major issues remain."But, at a morning meeting between congressional leaders and Clinton, "some concern was expressed by some present about the shortness of time remaining," Mitchell said.

Further, he said, Clinton is withholding judgment on whatever the negotiations might produce.

"He has said repeatedly, `Do the best you can and when I see the results, I'll make a decision on it,' " Mitchell said. "I think that's an appropriate position for him to take."

Mitchell and the moderates led by Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., planned to sit down again to try to iron out their last differences.

They spent more two hours Monday talking about reform and the procedural hurdles to getting a bill through at this late date.

"I can tell you, if they bring out some complicated bill, it's not going to go anywhere," Dole said of Chafee's group.

The Kansas Republican, addressing a think tank called the Independent Institute, said that unless a miracle occurs, health reform is dead for the year.

"Time has almost run out. I don't see anything happening this year," he said. "Maybe next year we'll have a more rational approach to health care."

"Nothing went wrong. It went right," said Dole. The American people decided they "don't want any of these big, big packages."

Mitchell told reporters Monday, "My objective is to pass a bill. We're doing it as fast as we can."

But the president seemed to signal his pessimism by leaving health-care reform off a list of priorities for the rest of this year's congressional session. In his only reference to Mitchell's effort, Clinton said: "I look forward to hearing a progress report from him on that."