House, Senate Reach Deal on Driver's Licenses

Motor vehicle bureaus would require four types of identification from Americans seeking driver's licenses under a proposed law designed to prod states into verifying the citizenship of applicants.

Uniform requirements for driver's license applications were among proposals accepted by House and Senate negotiators trying to resolve differences in their versions of a bill to pay for military operations in Iraq (search) and Afghanistan (search). They also agreed on changes in asylum laws but remained divided over how much money to spend on border security.

Both chambers will eventually consider the negotiated bill. The House could take it up later this week, but the Senate won't vote until after it reconvenes May 9.

A copy of the legislation, obtained by The Associated Press, indicated an applicant for a driver's license would be asked to show a birth certificate, a photo ID, proof of Social Security (search) number, and a document with full name and home address. How it would affect the renewal of licenses for U.S. citizens was unclear.

Motor vehicle departments would be required to verify the documents and Social Security number. States still could give licenses to illegal immigrants (search), but they would have different designs or colors to alert security officers that they are unacceptable as IDs for boarding planes or entering federal buildings.

The driver's license requirements were part of a House plan that Senate representative accepted on Monday. Congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said negotiators were still apart on whether to devote $4 million each to a Fire Science Academy (search) in Elko, Nev., and environment cleanup of a former Energy Department site in New Mexico.

Also in dispute was about $600 million in the Senate version of the bill to hire 1,000 border patrol officers and other immigration agents and provide 2,000 new beds for detainees.

Tentative deals were reached to provide roughly $75 billion for defense-related costs and construction of a new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Also surviving negotiations were provisions that would make it easier for judges to reject asylum claims and force asylum applicants to meet a higher standard of proof.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., persuaded colleagues to restore appeal opportunities for asylum seekers and to limit judges' discretion to reject an asylum claim based solely on the applicant's credibility or demeanor.

The asylum proposals have drawn heavy criticism from Democrats, some Republicans and several religious and human rights groups. Those groups — including the Southern Baptist Convention (search) and churches in Bush's boyhood hometown of Midland, Texas — fear the proposals could hurt people fleeing religious persecution.

Negotiators also accepted a House proposal to allow the Homeland Security secretary to bypass U.S. laws to build border barriers, including the remainder of a fence on the California-Mexico border.

Governors and state motor vehicle departments had opposed the driver's license provisions as too costly. They also complained state motor vehicle officials will be forced to take on the role of immigration officers.

Civil liberties and gun rights supporters opposed the measure on privacy grounds, saying they fear driver's licenses will evolve into a national identification card.

States will have three years after the bill becomes law to meet the standards or their driver's licenses won't be accepted by federal officers for identification.

All but one of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had some form of U.S. identification, some of it fraudulent, the Sept. 11 Commission found. The commission recommended the federal government set standards for birth certificates and other identification documents, including driver's licenses.