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Senate will pass union-creating bill, Obama says

CHICAGO -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said yesterday the Senate would pass legislation making it easier for workers to start unions against companies' wishes. Getting it past President Bush is another matter, he said.

"We may have to wait for the next president to sign it, but we will pass it," the Illinois senator told a cheering crowd of more than 1,000 people at a labor rally. "We will get this thing done."

Despite Obama's optimism, the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky , has said he will block the measure, and the White House says Bush will veto the bill if it gets to him.

The House passed the Employee Free Choice Act on Thursday.

Obama headlined a rally that included national and local labor leaders and state politicians.

The event was sponsored by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, which has 100,000 active and retired members in Illinois.

It was Obama's second major public appearance in his hometown in as many days. The state's junior senator did not take questions from reporters at either event.

On Friday, Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he was committed to the security of Israel.

Obama criticized the Bush administration for what he said were failings in Iraq that have strengthened Iran's position in the region.

In Selma, Ala., tomorrow, Obama and his rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, will participate in events to commemorate the 42 d anniversary of the civil rights march that helped end segregation in the South.

Clinton took her campaign to California yesterday. She joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles in kicking off a national volunteer drive to clean up litter and graffiti.

The Democratic mayor showered Clinton with praise for her work on clean energy, climate change, and other programs in Washington.

"She's been fighting for a brighter and cleaner future for all our children," Villaraigosa said to cheers from a throng gathered around the City Hall steps. "She's knows that our environment is not just the key to our health and happiness, she knows it's the defining issue for our children's future."

Villaraigosa later indicated he didn't have a favorite in the 2008 race, but the event gave the senator a chance to stand beside the popular mayor in a city with a large Democratic constituency as a dozen TV cameras rolled.

The elaborately staged rally for the 2007 Great American Cleanup included dance troupes, an appearance by actress Daryl Hannah, and a marching band.

As the state with the largest number of electoral votes and with its presidential primary expected to move to Feb. 5 from June, California has emerged as an important stopover for 2008 candidates.

In recent days there have been visits from Obama and John Edwards, former North Carolina senator and the 2004 Democratic candidate for vice president.

Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, both Republicans, also made appearances.