WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House today rejected a GOP-backed patient protection bill and set the stage for a showdown vote on a White House-endorsed plan giving Americans broad new rights to file lawsuits against their health insurance plans.

With the outcome uncertain to the end, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore lobbied lawmakers via telephone. The GOP measure was defeated 238-193.

Republican leaders had worked fiercely in recent days to rally support for their version, which offered patients a limited right to file lawsuits _ but only in federal court and with limits on how much money plaintiffs could collect.

Many Republicans reluctantly supported the GOP leadership bill in hopes of defeating the broader Democratic version, which appeared to have enough Republican support to prevail. Had the leadership won a majority it would have wiped out the broader measure.

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