Senate names aviation security conferees, first meeting held

In an effort to show that it is moving quickly on aviation security, the Senate on Wednesday appointed seven Democratic and six Republican conferees to reconcile its bill with the House version, and they plan to meet this afternoon, aides said. The House named its eight conferees, five Republicans and three Democrats, Tuesday night. In an unusual move, the Senate conferees include Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who said he would be "in there stirring the pot" in order to reach agreement. Lott has expressed support for the House version of the bill, which would let the administration decide to hire, rather than require it to hire, federal airport screeners. While the Republicans appear to have a one-vote advantage on the committee, support for the bills does not divide evenly along party lines because most of the Senate Republican conferees support the Senate bill, along with both Senate and House Democrats. The other Senate conferees are: Commerce Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C.; ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz.; Commerce Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Commerce Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R- Texas; Appropriations ranking member Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; John Kerry, D-Mass.; John Breaux, D-La.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., also urged a quick conference. "Go to work, get a deal, sit down and talk," Hastert said. "Come back with something that everybody can agree on." House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., said Wednesday that liability issues should not be considered as part of the aviation security legislation, although he said they "ought to be looked at" separately. Gephardt said he has yet to draw a conclusion on whether groups such as the World Trade Center management firm or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, its builder, should be excused from all liability for the Sept. 11 tragedy, saying the issue needed to be examined by congressional committees. Likewise, he said the question of liability for airport security firms was "inappropriate on this bill."