RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Citing health problems, Sen. Jesse Helms has missed votes this week and is unlikely to return to Washington before Congress adjourns for the year.

Helms said he had fluid drained from his lungs, and aides said the 80-year-old Republican has had a bad head cold in recent days.

Helms said he had medical appointments this week in North Carolina and that he foresaw no close votes in the remaining days of Congress. Both chambers plan to adjourn by the end of the week.

``I feel good, I'm moving around and getting work done, just not casting votes,'' Helms said in an interview with the News & Observer of Raleigh. ``I intend to stay here unless something important comes up ... that I would make any difference in.''

Helms said he had an arrangement with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott. ``If he needs me, I'll be on a plane coming back there,'' he said.

Helms, who has suffered from a variety of ailments in recent years, plans to retire at the end of his term in January 2003.