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Airline security bill remains stalled in Congress

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt Friday suggested Democrats might abandon efforts to find a compromise with Republicans on air travel security legislation, hashing out areas of disagreement next week on the House floor -- where they think they would have enough votes to get their way.

"We're getting near the point where we need to go back to what is the normal way of doing things and let all views be expressed and let the members vote," the Missouri lawmaker told congressional radio reporters. He said there'll be no "easy agreement" between the parties, so it's best to "let the members work their will on what should happen."

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Still, the usually partisan leader was careful to describe the disputes over the bill as "differences being expressed on both sides -- on all sides" rather than blame Republicans by name.

The measure remains stalled in Congress over whether airport security screeners should become federal employees.

Democrats argue they should, to establish nationally uniform training, standards and government accountability. Republicans object to the associated costs and bureaucracy.

Gephardt indicated he'd be open to some modifications to "federalizing" the screeners, including reduced pension benefits and having the right to quickly fire any doing a poor job.

He also would consider using local law enforcement officers as screeners at small airports with few flights. Both ideas have been discussed as ways to satisfy the GOP's concerns.

The Missouri Democrat also said he can't yet say when the House should quit for the year, but added "it's not a good time to be adjourned."

One option would be for the chamber to remain "in recess subject to the call of the chair" throughout the winter in case lawmakers are needed for quick decisions relating to the war.


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