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Supporters for bill say they have the momentum

Neither side claimed Sunday to have the votes to pass a China trade bill in the House this week, although one of President Clinton's most improbable allies said supporters have the momentum to win.

"It's really been tough to get the votes in on this. But we're doing real well," said House Republican Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "We're moving toward that magic number of 218 votes" to pass the bill, DeLay said on Fox News Sunday.

The House vote is expected at midweek. Senate passage is nearly assured.

DeLay, usually one of Clinton's most reliable critics, predicted eventual victory and credited Clinton personally.

"The president's been working very hard," DeLay said.

The deal would open Chinese markets to more U.S. goods and end the annual congressional review of China's trading status. It also speeds the way for China to enter the World Trade Organization.

"This is a big deal to me, beyond the obvious economic benefits," Clinton said Sunday during a strategy session at the Hyde Park, N.Y., home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"The biggest issue is, what can we do to promote human rights; what can we do to promote the rule of law; what can we do to minimize the chances that there will be another war in Asia in our lifetime, or in our children's lifetime?"

The AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, Richard Trumka, did not offer a tally of the bill's opponents, who include Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. Trumka did hint that labor may offer little political help to Democrats who support the deal.

"This is a very, very serious issue with our membership, and I don't think anybody can tell you right now (what) is the political fallout from it," he said on CBS' Face the Nation.