The political problem for the GOP committee chairmen is that the 2005 Real ID Act has proven to be anything but popular: legislatures of two dozen states have voted to reject its requirements, and in the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures one chamber has done so.
That didn't stop the House Republicans from saying in a letter this week to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that "any further extension of Real ID threatens the security of the United States." Unless Homeland Security grants an extension, the law's requirements take effect on May 11.
"If they don't, people won't be able to use their driver's licenses to get on airplanes," says Molly Ramsdell, who oversees state-federal affairs for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "They can use a military ID. They can use some other federal ID. But they won't be able to use a driver's license." (See CNET's FAQ.)
The situation represents a setback to Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who championed Real ID as a way to identify terrorists and criminals. But instead of what supporters hoped would be a seamless shift to a nationalized ID card, the requirements have created a confusing patchwork of state responses--with some legislatures forbidding their motor vehicle administration from participating--and could herald chaos at airports unrivaled by any other recent change to federal law.