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House Fails To Override Bush's Veto of Leave Bill

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WASHINGTON--The House last week failed to override President Bush's veto of a measure that would have required large firms to grant workers unpaid leave for family medical emergencies.

Backers of the bill pledged to continue working for its passage regardless of who wins the Presidential election.

Although the Senate narrowly voted to override the veto last month--the first time it successfully challenged a Bush veto--the House sustained the veto by 258 to 169, 27 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed.

Although the bill is dead for this year, its supporters--including Rep. William L. Clay, D-Mo., the bill's chief House sponsor--vowed to reintroduce it early in the next Congress.

The "family and medical leave act'' would have required firms with more than 50 workers to grant workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for the birth or adoption of a child or for serious family illness.

Supporters cast the bill as pro-family and said it would prevent parents from having to choose between caring for newborn or ill children and keeping their jobs. But Mr. Bush and his allies said it would burden businesses and force them to cut other benefits.

Saying he supported the concept of family leave but thought it should be worked out between employers and employees, Mr. Bush recently offered a counterproposal that would offer tax credits to firms with fewer than 500 workers that granted up to 12 weeks of family leave per year.

This was the second time Mr.Bush has vetoed family-leave legislation. The measure's odds of passage could improve if Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, the Democratic Presidential nominee and a supporter, is elected.

Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said last week that he would try to strengthen the bill next year and was confident Mr. Clinton would sign it if elected.

"No matter who's in the White House, this bill will be back because this issue is one that won't go away as long as workers are still losing their jobs when crises arise,'' said Helen Norton, the deputy director for work and family programs for the Women's Legal Defense Fund, which headed a coalition of groups backing the bill.--D.C.

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