Foster Nomination Is Campaign Football

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) of California, 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.

Senator Dole (R) of Kansas, who is running for president, said Sunday he doubted the Foster nomination 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, who as majority leader sets the Senate's agenda. Foster's problem was that ''he didn't tell the truth,'' he said.

Foster is being challenged on the number of abortions, he says he has performed.

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

''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, 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.

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