Wright Plan Faces House Delay

The vote is unlikely until after Labor Day, but the Senate could still act.

Mr. Mica wanted a simpler version of the legislation and asked which pieces of the agreement could conceivably be implemented without federal law. A D/FW Airport official acknowledged that the gate limitations could be done on their own.

Still, Mr. Mica responded, "You'd probably be sued, so this is your cover."

Days later, Love Terminal Partners sued the five parties under federal antitrust claims. The company owns the six-gate Love Field terminal that would be demolished under the deal.

The House version already has been approved by the transportation committee. But Mr. Sensenbrenner claimed partial jurisdiction over the legislation so his committee could examine antitrust issues in the proposal.

The legislation would implement the June 15 agreement to repeal the Wright amendment in eight years. It was signed by the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, as well as American Airlines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.

In his letter to the speaker, Mr. Sensenbrenner points to language in the bill that would bulletproof the plan from federal antitrust laws. He noted that the bill deems the five parties to be in compliance with "competition laws."

"While not explicitly defined in the legislation, 'competition laws' encompass those related to the protections of trade against unlawful restraints, price discrimination, price fixing, abuse of market for anticompetitive purposes and monopolies," Mr. Sensenbrenner wrote to Mr. Hastert.

Several options

The judiciary panel has several options for dealing with the legislation. It can send the bill on to the full House with either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation.

Or, the panel could amend any provision within its jurisdiction. Amending the bill would pose the most serious problems for proponents because it would force the House to renegotiate the new terms with their Senate colleagues.

With this bill, that becomes exceedingly complex because lawmakers have to check back with all five parties in North Texas.

"There are two cities, two airlines and an airport that all have a part of it," Ms. Granger said. "We are trying to keep that coalition together. That makes it more complicated."

Mr. Sensenbrenner did not say there was anything wrong with the legislation. That left some North Texas lawmakers to speculate that he wants to protect his committee's jurisdiction on antitrust matters while reviewing the legislation for potential problems.

In the Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has raised similar issues about a version of the bill that is attached to a $69 billion transportation spending bill.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, got her proposal added to the spending bill as a backup measure in case her free-standing bill to repeal the Wright amendment is blocked.

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