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Gore makes radio address as restless Clinton recovers

Savoring smuggled bagels and wincing from occasional pain, President Clinton was stuck in a hospital room for a second day Saturday as doctors weaned him from the epidural anesthetic that had kept his knee numbed since surgery.

But Vice President Al Gore filled in for him at his weekly radio address, urging Congress to approve the $5-billion school-repair and rebuilding program that the president had planned to push Friday morning, before he stumbled at the Florida home of golfer Greg Norman and ripped a tendon from his right kneecap.

"Any educational progress we achieve is at risk if our children are asked to learn in a landscape littered with peeling paint and broken glass," Gore said. "With student populations at an all-time high, many of our schoolhouses are at an all-time low."

Since Clinton's injury forced him to cancel his plans and return to Washington Friday, the White House has tried to dampen any sense of crisis, emphasizing that the president has remained fully alert, cheerful and able to make decisions.

Clinton hoped to be released from Bethesda Naval Hospital today, but press secretary Mike McCurry said late Saturday that doctors "really want to hold that open until they see how he's doing."

McCurry underscored that the recovery from the surgery was proceeding normally, including an occasional spasm of pain when the knee is moved. McCurry called it "the kind of pain that makes you say, "Ouch.' "

About noon Saturday, doctors removed the spinal tap that had been feeding anaesthetic to Clinton's lower body. They started him on two non-narcotic painkillers: Toradol and Ultran. Clinton was taking the muscle relaxant Robaxin after experiencing occasional muscle spasms, McCurry said.

"The doctors obviously could knock out all the pain he's experiencing, but the president's choice was to use a non-narcotic drug and not to be sedated," he added.

Aides said Clinton was taking regular meals as he read briefing materials, napped and watched some of the NCAA basketball tournament. Early in the day, the notoriously restive president sent an aide to scour the hospital for a copy of the New York Times and its daily crossword puzzle.

It was left to Gore to push the administration's proposal, first made last July, to provide $5-billion during the next four years to help repair schools. Gore said the president sent new legislation for the plan to Congress Friday.

The administration does not want to spend the money directly on schools, but rather to pay up to half the cost of interest on the tax-exempt bonds typically issued to pay for construction. The effect, officials have said, would be to prompt $20-billion in school investment by states and communities.

Gore gave a grim description of the nation's schools. "One-third of our schools now need major repair or outright replacement," he said. "Forty-six percent even lack the basic electrical wiring to support computers, modems and modern communications technology."

In the Republican response, Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina promoted a bill, opposed by unions, to let workers take time off instead of overtime pay. "It will give America's workers flexibility in scheduling the hours they work," Myrick said.

_ Information from the New York Times and the Associated Press was used in this report.