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Bid to Speed Security Legislation Stalls

The House last night rejected the Senate’s plan, which the Senate had passed by a 100-0 vote, by a vote of 218-214. If the House had accepted the Senate plan, the combined bill would have gone directly to the president for his signature.

GOP Legislators in the House passed their own version of the plan by a vote of 286-139.

Officials from President Bush to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to Federal Aviation Administraton chief Jane Garvey urged both houses to work swiftly as the measure heads to a conference committee.

The president said he was prepared to “take an active role” to ensure that the bill comes out of conference quickly.

“I look forward to working with the Senate and the House to reconcile any differences,” Mr. Bush said. “I believe the differences are small, and I believe they can be reconciled quickly.”

Garvey said an airport security measure is needed “now, and it’s very urgent.” Hastert, meanwhile, urged House and Senate leaders to send a bill to the president by Thanksgiving, when many holiday travelers will take to the skies.

But House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri worried that taking the bill to a conference committee could kill it.

“My greatest fear is that if it goes to conference, it never comes out,” he said Thursday.

The House plan, backed by its Republican majority, calls for federal training and supervision of airport security screeners. It would then give the president the option of either using federal employees or contracting with private security companies.

The Senate plan, backed by the Democratic majority,would make screeners federal employees.

The Senate plan would put aviation security under the Justice Department, while the House bill would give that responsibility to the Department of Transportation.

The two plans agree on some issues, such as placing more air marshals on flights and strengthening cockpit doors to keep intruders out.

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