Ever since hijackers crashed four planes on September 11, the government has tried to pass laws making airports and airplanes safer.
Nearly two months later, politicians are still arguing about how to improve airport security. The House of Representatives has passed a bill, the Senate has passed a different bill, and now those two chambers of Congress must come together and reach a compromise.
The disagreement centers on what to do about the passenger and luggage screeners who make sure people don't get on planes with guns, bombs or other weapons.
Currently, screeners make minimum wage and often find better paying jobs just as they start to become good screeners.
Democrats want to make security screeners federal employees in the Justice Department.
Republicans, who prefer less government employees, think the Democratic plan would create a big, inefficient organization. They also oppose making screeners into federal workers because federal employees tend to vote Democratic.
The House of Representatives bill, passed by a vote of 286 to 139, places the federal government in charge of airport security without turning the 28,000 baggage and passenger screeners into federal workers.
The House bill also requires inspection of all checked bags and better protection for pilots.
President Bush praised the House vote and urged the House and Senate to work together to write a final bill.
"I commend the House for passing legislation that will help ensure the safety of the traveling public by strengthening security at America's airports," the president said in a statement.
"The American people deserve tough security standards and the House plan delivers."
Democrats argued that private security companies had failed at the job. They pointed out that even after September 11, some companies are still employing screeners with criminal backgrounds and for failing to detect guns and knives.
The Senate passed a very different bill on Oct. 11 by a vote of 100 to 0.
The Senate bill gives the Justice Department responsibility for airport security and makes security screeners Justice Department employees.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was an author of the Senate plan, said he expected the Senate to stand firm behind its bill.
"Since the Senate bill passed with no dissension on a rare 100-to-0 vote, I expect my Senate colleagues to fight to restore these important security measures and give the American public the same level of safety that members of Congress insist on for themselves," the senator said in a statement.
Both bills would increase the price of a plane ticket by $2.50 to pay for added security and would put more federal air marshals on flights.
However, it may take the Congress a long time before they can work out a compromise on the future of security screeners.
Republican House leaders and Mr. Bush argue that their bill duplicates the security systems in Europe and Israel.
Many European countries have moved from a government system to one that creates a partnership between the government and private security firms.
European screeners are paid more, but they also get health benefits, pension plans and promotion opportunities. The House bill does not give those benefits.
Copyright © MacNeil-Lehrer Productions All Rights Reserved