The bill puts some 28,000 airport baggage screeners on the federal payroll for at least the next three years. After that time, airports can opt for a return to private screeners. The bill also aims for 100 percent bag inspection and widespread explosive detection systems.
The proposal includes a $2.50 charge per ticket to pay for the increased security. It also establishes a new administration within the Department of Transportation to head up
transportation security efforts.
“We are pleased that this legislation… [places] primary responsibility for aviation security with the Department of Transportation,” Carol Hallett, president of the Air Transport Association, said.
“This is the most important aviation security bill in 30 years,” Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, said. “We are here today to raise the bar of security higher than ever before.”
Following the Senate’s unanimous approval of the compromise bill, the House voted 410 – 9 to send the final version to the president. Sources say the president will sign the bill as early as Monday.
Congress’ final approval comes more than a month after the Senate unanimously passed an earlier version of the bill. The House passed a separate bill that established government controls over security, but did not federalize screeners. It took an additional two weeks for negotiators to draft a compromise.
Some lawmakers complained Congress was slow to react to the nation’s aviation security needs following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We have now done something which unfortunately took too long, but is certainly now going to be signed into law,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said. “It will be a very, very major step forward in providing security and safety to Americans, hundreds of millions of whom use the airways every year.”
The bill also helps pay for the strengthening of cockpit doors on commercial aircraft and boosts other security measures ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Going into the holidays, the American people can have full confidence that all of these cockpit door modifications are extremely effective in keeping the cockpit secure from intrusion,” Hallett said.