Veto said unlikely of federalizing bag handlers

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's chief of staff suggested Sunday the president would sign a Senate-passed airline security bill even though he disagrees with a provision to make all airport baggage handlers federal employees.

"I suspect he wouldn't want to have to sign it but he would. He wants airline security," White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said.

A House Republican version of the bill is "the best way to go," Card said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

House Republicans and the president want the government in charge of overseeing, but not employing, airport security.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush called on Congress to reject the Senate proposal, adding that the House version would ensure that "security managers can move aggressively to discipline or fire employees who fail to live up to the rigorous new standards."

According to Card, Bush has confidence that Congress can pass a bill that "meets the responsibilities that he thinks are most important: Give the federal government the flexibility to do the best job that it can do for airline security." Card made the comment in a separate TV appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

The House plans to take up the airline security bill Wednesday.

Bill stalled

The legislation has been stalled for weeks as Democrats and Republicans have fought over the screeners' provision.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, conceded on "Fox News Sunday" that he was still unsure if GOP leaders had the votes to get their version passed. If House Republicans do pass their version, Senate and House conferees will have to meet to develop a compromise.