- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The Bush administration is not pleased with the House Democratic proposal to turn the nation's airport screeners into federal employees, but refused to say yesterday whether the president would veto it.
The bill is scheduled for a vote in the House tomorrow.
The president prefers a Republican proposal to more tightly regulate airport screening but to leave the job to private security firms. The Republican bill was sponsored by Rep. Don Young of Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Democrats support a proposal that replicates the bill the Senate passed unanimously Oct. 11. It would switch about 28,000 aviation security personnel from private employers to the federal payroll.
"The president wants to sign an airline security bill into law and he wants to sign the Young bill into law," said White House press spokeswoman Claire Buchan. "He believes the best approach is for the federal government to assume the responsibility for airline security while retaining the flexibility to ensure the best and most qualified employees are hired. He thinks the government should take responsibility for doing the background checks and ensuring that our nation's airlines are safe."
She would not say whether Mr. Bush would veto the bill preferred by House Democrats if it passes.
Meanwhile, both sides are optimistic as the deadline for the vote approaches.
"We're generally pretty confident that there's a whole lot of bipartisan support for putting airport baggage screening and airport security in the hands of federal law enforcement officials," said Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for Rep. Richard Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat leading the House effort for a federalized aviation security work force.
"I think the Senate's 100 to zero vote was a pretty clear indication and I don't think anything has changed since they voted on it," Miss Bernards said. "It's pretty clear that a lot of folks support this bill."
Republicans expressed similar optimism they would prevail.
"What's important is that we have the votes at game time," said Jonathan Grella, spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who supports the president's proposal for a private aviation security work force. "We're confident we're going to get across the goal line this week."
The Republican bill is modeled after a European system that GOP members call a "public-private hybrid."
In the 1970s, when most European countries had a federalized work force of airport screeners, there were 31 hijackings, Mr. Grella said. In the 1990s, after the British led a switch to government-regulated privatized employees, the number of hijackings dropped to four.
"We're arm in arm with the administration," Mr. Grella said. "History has told us nationalization doesn't work. The Senate voted 100 to nothing to get the political hot potato off their lap.
The burden falls on the House this week to do what's right and not pass the buck."
A coalition of unions representing government employees and flight attendants started a television ad campaign yesterday to drum up support for a federalized aviation security work force.
The ad ends with an announcer's voice saying, "Call Congress. Tell them airport safety isn't a job for the lowest bidder."

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