Congressional leaders say they’ll support federalizing airport security in wake of terror attack
WASHINGTON (AP) – The top leaders in Congress agreed Sunday that the federal government may have to take over airport security nationwide to reassure Americans that air travel is safe.
”We have to work out who pays for what part of it,” said House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.
”But I think we must convince the American people very quickly that it’s safe to go to airports and to get on airplanes and fly as we did before Sept. 11, and I think the federal government has the central responsibility to do that,” Gephardt said.
He joined Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott on NBC’s ”Meet the Press.”
Many lawmakers, industry representatives and watchdog groups have long said the government should replace security companies paid by the airlines and handle security itself.
Jane Garvey, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, has estimated that it would cost taxpayers $1.8 billion a year if the government took over the job of screening passengers before they board planes.
”I’m not sure how we’re going to fund this. It might be the government’s responsibility to do that. We haven’t made that decision yet,” said Hastert, R-Ill. ”But I think the American people deserve no less than the most competent people to be there at those gates to go through and check individuals and luggage and to make sure that the American public is safe.”
The FAA is developing new rules for security companies to follow in training workers who screen passengers at airport security checkpoints.
But ”I think that would be my inclination, as well, to think that federal control is the best way to do this, at least for a period of time,” said Daschle, D-S.D. ”Maybe there will be another way that would be equally as effective down the road. But right now, I can’t think of a better alternative.”
Lott, R-Miss., said he hoped Congress could get around to security issues in ”the next 10 days or so.”
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