House says no to Mexican trucks

On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to hamstring the Bush administration’s plans to welcome Mexican trucks to U.S. highways. While working on the transportation funding bill for fiscal year 2002, House members voted 285-143, saying “yes” to a measure sponsored by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that forbids the Department of Transportation from spending money to process applications from Mexican carriers to truck in the United States.

Lawmakers expect the measure may be modified by the time the U.S. Senate sits down to hash it over, but the message is clear that legislators are listening to the warnings of OOIDA, labor unions and safety groups. As many as 82 Republicans joined 201 Democrats and two independents in the vote, saying yes to Sabo’s amendment.

OOIDA applauded the action and Jim Johnston, president of the association, said, “The size of this vote shows, that while there may be Congressional support for NAFTA, there is significant concern for the potentially devastating highway safety impact of allowing Mexican trucks unfettered access to U.S. highways.”

OOIDA now urges the Senate Appropriations Committee to make the amendment part of its transportation bill.

Meanwhile, according to a White House spokesman, President Bush was disappointed with the House vote and is going to work to reverse it. The most logical place to undo the House vote would be in the House/Senate conference committee that will negotiate the final details for transportation spending. While virtually anything can happen in a conference committee, if the U.S. Senate were to agree with the House that the border with Mexico is not ready to be opened to trucks, it would be very difficult for President Bush to open the border next January.