care tax., but Levin pressed for an opinion: "Is it a tax increase? Is it a duck?"

"I need some sort of new metaphor," Darman replied."I don't want you changing metaphors in the middle of the stream here," Levin came back. "Is it a duck?"

"My strong inclination," Darman replied, "is to say it's not a duck."

At midafternoon, the hearing awash in variations on the duck theme, Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, interrupted the proceedings to present Darman with a platter containing three plastic yellow ducks.

"If it quacks," a small placard on one of the ducks read, "it's a tax."

(BU) ELIZABETH DOLE came closer to becoming the top woman in the Bush administration after promising senators she would implement a "growth plus" policy as labor secretary but avoiding specific answers on the minimum wage and job protection for new mothers.

The Senate Labor Committee on Thursday unanimously approved her nomination after a 2 1/2-hour hearing in which Dole outlined a policy to provide workers with the jobs and skills of the future.

"We have within our reach the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream - that every American who wants a job can have a job," she said. But to do it, she said, will require a coordinated effort by government, business, union, education and community leaders "to wipe out illiteracy and enhance skills through basic education, training and retraining."