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Debate on Health-Care Bill Centers on Rostenkowski

THE Clinton administration is insisting that Rep. Dan Rostenkowski's legal troubles will not stop the ``real momentum'' toward passing health care reform this year.

But a senior Democrat on Mr. Rostenkowski's Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, said the committee chairman is a genius at gaining consensus on tough bills and must continue to be a key player in getting health care passed. Rostenkowski understands the pressures lawmakers are under, ``and when he finishes talking with the people, he would know those who cannot vote for a bill, those that can vote for a bill, and what changes have to be made in order to get that vote,'' Mr. Rangel said.

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Rostenkowski must decide by today whether to accept a plea bargain agreement or risk indictment on federal corruption charges. Under Democratic caucus rules, if indicted, he would have to step down as chairman of his committee. No more golf trips by chopper

TRYING to quell the latest outcry over perquisites and privileges in Washington, a White House aide said last week's golf trip aboard a presidential helicopter was a one-time thing. But it was unclear whether the administration would be willing to provide records to back up the assertion.

Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos was questioned by reporters this weekend about White House administrator David Watkins, who took a helicopter on May 23 to Camp David and Holly Hills Country Club near New Market, Md. Mr. Watkins has resigned, but Republicans want access to the flight records.

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