A Senate-House conference to iron out differences in bills to reduce federal regulation of the nation's airlines could begin later this week, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) said yesterday.
Although the bills passed both houses by overwhelming majorities, supporters have expressed concern privately that the deregulation measure might be held hostage on the house side to pressure the Senate to art on a measure, already passed by the House, to provide the airlines with up to .4 billion in tax revenues to help buy new planes that would meet federal anti-noise regulations.
The "noise" bill is less far along in the Senate and appears to face more opposition there.
After the deregulation measure passed the House last week by a vote of 363-to-8. House Public Works and Transportation Committee Chairman Harold T. (Bizz) Johnson (D-Calif.) said he wanted to move both bills to conference simultaneously and declined to say whether he would allow the deregulation bill to go to conference without the noise bill.
Yesterday, Cannon said he had talk to Johnson and told him conferences would be appointed yesterday - they were - and the Senate "would be ready to go conference by the end of this week." Cannon also said they agreed to "start" on the deregulation bill.
Johnson said yesterday House conferees would be appointed today but added, "I don't know about going to conference this week." He said staffs of the Senate and House committees had met yesterday and would meet again today to work out a format for the conference. "But whether they get together this week or the first part of next week, I couldn't tell you now."
Johnson said the House would start the deregulation bill conference, but "I'm not saying we're going to complete it. We have conferees who feel very keenly about the noise bill.
"I hope we can get these two bills through conference and send both to the President," he added.
A "noise" bill with somewhat different provisions cleared the Senate Commerce Committee and is presumed approval by the Senate Finance Committee. The measure is expected to face more opposition on the Senate floor than it faced in the House, however, and the Senate leadership has been reluctant to schedule issues that promise to be time-consuming as the Senate is pushing to finish its business before adjourning in mid-October.
Yesterday, Sen. Cannon said he told Johnson he intends to try to get unanimous consent for an agreement on time in which to consider the noise bill when it comes to the floor.