The Senate allowed Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) to continue his marathon of monologues yesterday, delaying action on a bill that would transfer control of National and Dulles International airports from the federal government to a regional authority.
The vote of 50 to 39 fell 10 short of the number required to end the filibuster Sarbanes has engaged in for three days. A new vote was scheduled for Tuesday.
For most of yesterday, Sarbanes and Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.) were alone in the chamber while Sarbanes repeated his complaints that the bill would be unfair to Maryland. The state owns Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which competes with Dulles for passengers and business development.
Although the bill has hit tougher opposition than expected, many Democrats who voted with Sarbanes yesterday have indicated that next time they will vote to cut off the filibuster.
Supporters of the bill say they will win easily if they get a vote on the floor; some of the bill's proponents have grown disheartened by Sarbanes' long delay.
"Frankly, the way things are going right now in Congress I think we should forget it," said Martha V. Pennino, vice chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and a member of the commission that recommended the transfer. "The state of Virginia should just go ahead and buy Dulles."
Sarbanes has long been an advocate of such an approach, and he said again yesterday that he would be happy to see a regional authority run National and Virginia purchase Dulles. Maryland bought BWI from the city of Baltimore in 1972 for $36 million.
Trible and Republican John W. Warner, Virginia's senior senator, held a news conference yesterday to denounce Sarbanes' tactics and the suggestion of a consortium of economists who say they would like to purchase the airports for up to $1 billion. A British bank, N.M. Rothschild and Sons, has said that it would raise the capital for such a venture if American lawmakers approved it.
"Commercial airports are run for the public," said Trible, "not for profit."
Sarbanes said that private interest in the purchase underscores the fact that the proposed sale of the airports for $47 million to a regional authority "amounts to a fire sale and should be reconsidered."