Fight Over Love Field Goes National

What started as a squabble among Texas Republicans over a law designed to expand Dallas Fort Worth International Airport has become a national tug-of-war with lawmakers from about 20 states choosing sides between two Dallas-based airlines.

Another potential block is a bill dubbed the ''True Competition Act,'' filed by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The legislation would end passenger air service at Love Field.

Inhofe said he's not against Southwest Airlines, but American Airlines and other carriers are just beginning to show profits and ''any little thing can cause that to be reversed.''

''I have a very selfish interest in American Airlines. They are the largest employer in my hometown in Tulsa, Okla.,'' Inhofe said. ''They've been playing by the rules. I really believe they could be legislated out of business and I can't let that happen.''

Both airlines have pulled together formidable lobbying teams. Southwest's founder Herb Kelleher makes regular trips to Washington. DFW, and American Airlines' lobbyists include Drew Maloney, a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and a former chief counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees aviation.

Although some repeal supporters have said they don't expect Congress to act on the issue this year, American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said the airline won't back off lobbying efforts.

''We are fully engaged,'' Wagner said. ''We are aware of the consequences to the community and DFW airport if we let our guard down.''

Bills repealing the Wright Amendment are HR2646 and S1424.

The Inhofe-Harkin bill is S1425

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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