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CLINTON ADMINISTRATION VOWS TO PUSH FOSTER'S NOMINATION

Clinton administration officials say they won't give up on Dr. Henry Foster's nomination as surgeon general.

And on Capitol Hill, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., threatened to block action on other legislation if Majority Leader Bob Dole thwarts the Senate from taking up the Foster nomination.White House officials and groups supporting the Foster nomination are hoping that the tide will turn in his favor in two weeks when the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee holds a confirmation hearing.

Dole, who is running for president, said Sunday the Foster nomination was "in extremis." He expressed doubt that it would get out of committee.

"If it does, I'm not certain I'll call it up" for a vote on the floor, said Dole, R-Kan., who as majority leader sets the Senate's agenda. Foster's problem was that "he didn't tell the truth," he said.

Last month Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, another GOP presidential aspirant, said he stood ready to filibuster if necessary to keep Foster from becoming surgeon general.

Boxer wrote to Dole that blocking a full debate "would be an affront to millions of Americans who support a woman's right to choose" and believe Foster should not be barred from serving because he performed some abortions.

"Should you exercise your prerogative as majority leader to prevent a vote, please be aware that I reserve my right as a senator to object to unanimous consent requests on other Senate business," Boxer wrote. Under Senate rules, legislation moves to the floor only after all senators have agreed it should be considered. Any senator can block any measure from moving forward simply by objecting.

The labor committee is headed by Dole's fellow Kansas Republican, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, who has stayed neutral but criticized the White House's handling of the embattled nomination.

The panel includes nine Republicans and seven Democrats, and Foster backers are hoping the hearings will persuade two of those Republicans - Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont and Bill Frist of Tennessee - to vote for the Nashville obstetrician-gynecologist.

The post became vacant in December when Clinton fired the outspoken Dr. Joycelyn Elders after she expressed approval of teaching children about masturbation in sex education classes.

The White House has hoped that Foster, in one-on-one meetings on Capitol Hill and at the May 2 hearing, would convince senators that his record has been unfairly caricatured.