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The largest US airports will have to fend for themselves financially next year if the Senate "defederalizes" them. But the House opposes the idea. Federal funds have been used for 10 years to repave runways, buy new safety equipment, and build new terminals under the Airport Trust Fund.

The Senate now has cut out federal funds to the 72 largest airports, including Chicago's O'Hare, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Big airports, the Senate argues, have enough clout with airlines to bargain directly for passenger fees with which to pay for airport development.

Nearly all the airports involved oppose the Senate plan as unrealistic. The House seems to agree with the airports.

Observers predict a compromise. Some airports probably will lose funding, but not the full 72 demanded by the Senate.m

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