Real ID: The Feds Back Down

On Friday I told you how a dispute between the State of Montana and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the federal Real ...
by | March 24, 2008

On Friday I told you how a dispute between the State of Montana and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the federal Real ID law could result in Montanans being unable to board airplanes in May. I wondered how such an eventuality would affect Gov. Brian Schweitzer's reelection bid. As I wrote that, the dispute was ending.

More or less, the feds seem to have backed down. Montana's attorney general sent a letter to DHS saying that the state had made its licenses more secure, but the letter also pointed out that Montana law forbids implementation of Real ID.

The letter did take a somewhat conciliatory tone, noting that the Montana legislature comes back into session in 2009 -- the implication being that lawmakers might change their stance on the law in the future.

That was good enough to get Montana an extension. Here's what the always-entertaining Schweitzer had to say, according to Wired:

"I sent them a horse and if they want to call it a zebra, that's up to them," Schweitzer said. "They can call it whatever they want, and it wasn't a love letter."

A couple of other Real ID renegades, South Carolina and Maine, still haven't asked for extensions, but there doesn't seem to be any reason they couldn't follow the Montana model. New Hampshire also might be a state to watch because DHS hasn't granted their extension request yet (New Hampshire also says they won't implement the law). However, I'm not sure why the feds would end up treating New Hampshire differently than Montana.

By the way, a front-page writer on Daily Kos argued over the weekend that Real ID could be a wedge issue that benefits Democrats. But, if DHS really is backing down, the fight might be postponed a few more years.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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