WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Democrats on Monday dropped their demand for union bargaining rights for airport screeners, hoping to revive anti-terrorism legislation that had stalled because of a presidential veto threat.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the announcement on the Senate floor as he called for House and Senate negotiators to begin reconciling bills implementing the July 2004 recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 commission.
The legislation has been one of the new Democratic majority's priorities, but it had stalled because of a presidential veto threat over allowing airport screeners to have collective bargaining rights.
Because of the veto threat, neither the House nor the Senate will consider the legislation if "it contains collective bargaining provisions which I have committed to drop, as has the speaker," Reid said.
The House bill passed in January, and the Senate bill passed in March.
"We want to move the 9/11 bill forward and get to conference quickly," said Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky cheered the decision. "Republicans were able to ensure our national security is a higher priority than a special-interest provision for Big Labor and succeeded in removing a dangerous provision from this bill," McConnell said.
Many screeners already belong to a union, the American Federation of Government Employees, but they don't have the right to bargain collectively.
"The fight is not over. This only makes us more determined to get rights for workers who were wrongfully denied," said John Gage, the union's president. "TSA workers deserve full bargaining rights and we will keep fighting until they get them."
The White House and Congress have already followed through on some suggestions from the 9/11 commission, including enacting a port security bill and creating a director of national intelligence to oversee the intelligence community.