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Editorial: Sailing a course to Real ID

You can find Scylla and Charybdis in the Strait of Messina, the two-mile-wide gap between Italy and the island of Sicily. That's where, since ancient times, sailors have used great caution when navigating between the rocks of Scylla on one side and the whirlpools of Charybdis on the other.

Or, you can find Scylla and Charybdis a lot closer to home.

Specifically, in the Minnesota Senate.

For there the obstacles loom, blocking the way forward for a Real ID bill, and leaving open between them only a narrow passage that's beset by currents from both sides.

Senate leaders must scrupulously steer the charted route through.

Real ID is the federal law that sets standards for identification documents. To make a long story short, if a state's driver's licenses do not comply with Real ID, those licenses will no longer be usable after Jan. 1 as IDs to board commercial aircraft.

And Minnesota is one of five states whose licenses don't comply.

But the legislative passage that leads from the Sea of Noncompliance into the Sea of Compliance is narrow. Moreover, flanking one side is Scylla—some Republicans' privacy objections to Real ID—while on the other is Charybdis—some Democrats' insistence that the new law let illegal immigrants get driver's licenses.

What's the course through?

A simple, straightforward bill that brings Minnesota licenses into Real ID compliance. No more, no less.

Alas, on Monday, the ship of state ran aground. That's when senators rejected a Real ID bill, 29-38, with five privacy-minded Republicans joining all immigration-concerned Democrats in voting no.

Luckily, the grounding did no damage, and now the tide's rolling in. That means the vessel soon will be refloated.

But as its sails fill, it's essential that the Republican majority in command heed the Democratic minority's objections, at least in part.

That's because the Democrats are more likely to compromise than are the five rogue Republicans, whose objections on principle to federal mandates are as hard as rocks.

In contrast, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton wants a bill that lets illegal immigrants get driver's licenses. But, he and other Democrats likely would settle for a bill that simply stays silent on the subject. (They'll never agree to the bill's House version, which explicitly forbids licenses from being issued to illegal immigrants.)

The Senate's Republican leadership should take Democrats up on this offer. That means the leadership should strip out the language that the Democrats are objecting to, then advance a bare-bones, Real-ID-and-nothing-else bill.

Such a bill likely would pass with bipartisan support.

Real ID is a "must-pass"; if lawmakers fail, Minnesotans will have to show passports every time they fly. Senators must ready a clean bill, then use it to steer through the tight, dangerous passage into the open and welcoming water on the other side.