- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

The Senate deadlocked again yesterday on an aviation security bill that would turn airport and airline security personnel into federal employees.
An agreement between Democrats and Republicans to set a timetable for debating and voting on the bill was blocked by an objection from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. He complained about an amendment tacked onto the bill by Democrats to compensate laid-off airline employees for their lost wages.
The airlines have announced about 100,000 job cuts since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Another amendment would give $3.2 billion to Amtrak to increase passenger rail security.
The airline security bill has stalled in the Senate for a week while senators blame each other for endangering airline passengers by excessive delay.
But Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, predicted a compromise agreement by tomorrow.
"I think it's beginning to break," he said.
"This is not a question of whether we move forward, it's a question of how we move forward," said Rep. John F. Tierney, Massachusetts Democrat.
Unlike some Republicans, Mr. McCain favors the proposal to take responsibility for commercial aviation security away from airlines and turn it over to the federal government.
"Nothing less is required after the events of September 11," Mr. McCain said. "This is not an area where a decision should be determined by the bottom line."
Under the current system, the airlines hire private companies to handle their security. Members of Congress who support federalization say the private workers are poorly qualified and underpaid. They hope federalizing will raise standards.
Opposition to federalization is led by Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. He prefers to have airlines employ security personnel but make them subject to certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The last thing we can afford to do is erect a new bureaucracy that is unaccountable and unable to protect the American public," Mr. DeLay said yesterday.
Meanwhile, bus and trucking executives warned a Senate commerce panel the industries could be the next targets of a terrorist attacks without better screening of passengers and truck drivers.
"Our current safety policies make it too easy to gain motor carrier operating authority, too easy to obtain and keep a commercial driver's license, too easy to qualify for driving or transporting hazardous materials which can be used for terrorist actions," said Joan Claybrook, a co-chairman of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
The hearing before the surface transportation and merchant marine subcommittee was prompted by a knife attack last week on a Greyhound bus driver in Tennessee that killed six passengers in the ensuing crash and by reports that Islamic terrorists obtained licenses to transport hazardous materials by truck.
The Greyhound attack and the indictments of the Islamic truck drivers "make the vulnerability of our transport systems impossible to ignore," said Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat and chairman of the committee.
Miss Claybrook said individuals can pass a simple written exam and driving test to qualify to transport up to 80,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals or biological pathogens by truck.
American Trucking Association President Duane Acklie asked that trucking companies be allowed to search law enforcement databases to screen out potentially dangerous employees.
"A scenario in which a truck driver or motor carrier warehouseman could wreak the same level of destruction as the September 11 perpetrators wrought through air transport means is no longer hard to imagine," Mr. Acklie said.
The head of the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, which regulates passenger buses and commercial trucks, wants to institute security checks for bus passengers similar to the ones for airline passengers.
Since Sept. 11, the agency has been meeting with bus industry leaders to review procedures for security checks of passengers and the baggage.
Greyhound Bus Lines now uses metal detectors at three terminals.

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