Lawmaker angry with extension of cross-border program

| 8/5/2008

The continuation of the cross-border program with Mexico for two more years struck a raw nerve with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, an outspoken opponent of the program who has been instrumental in several attempts to shut down the program.

The Oregon Democrat recently sponsored legislation designed to shut the program down after one year, which would be Sept. 6. He sponsored the legislation along with Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN; Rep. John Mica, R-FL; and Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-TN.

The four introduced the bill on Tuesday, July 29, and fast-tracked it through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill met no resistance at the Committee level and was approved unanimously by committee members on a voice vote on Thursday, July 31. The bill now awaits the House to return from August recess for a vote.

Four days after the bill passed out of committee, and lawmakers headed out of DC for their August recess, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration John Hill announced the program would be extended two more years and would not end Sept. 6 as originally announced.

“DOT ignored congressional will last year when it insisted on moving ahead with a one-year pilot of the Mexican trucking program. Strong bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate have tried to shut the program down multiple times, but DOT has refused to abide by the law and terminate the program,” DeFazio said in a prepared statement following Hill’s announcement.

“Now, just days after the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted to ensure that DOT upholds their original promise to end the program after one year, the department is again acting in blatant violation of congressional will and illegally continuing the pilot for another two years.”

DeFazio continually highlights shortcomings in the DOT’s handling of the cross-border program in both congressional hearings and on the House floor – with ensuring highway safety as a cornerstone of his objections.

“This administration has been hell-bent on opening up our border but over the past year has failed to show they can adequately inspect Mexican carriers while also maintaining a robust U.S. safety inspection program,” he said in his prepared statement. “There is no reason to believe these problems will be addressed over the next two years. The safety of the traveling public must come first – before the administration’s fantasies about free trade.”

– By Jami Jones, senior editor