SPECIAL REPORT: Effort to slow cross-border trucking still intact

| 4/25/2007

WEDNESDAY, April 25, 2007 – An amendment calling for the Bush Administration to have its ducks in a row before opening the border to 100 Mexican motor carriers is alive and well – for the time being.

Section 4001 of the U.S. Senate’s supplemental appropriations bill, approved in early April, was accepted by the House-Senate Conference Committee and remains in the full appropriations bill.

Committee members approved the conference report on the appropriations bill Tuesday, March 24, with all 28 Democrats signing and all 24 Republicans withholding their signatures.

Senate adoption is expected Thursday, March 26. According to press reports, Democrats in the House of Representatives were counting votes hoping to guarantee acceptance of the committee report so the bill can be sent to the president.

Section 4001 would restrict spending any money on allowing Mexican motor carriers to operate beyond the border zone until three conditions are met. Those conditions are:

  • Granting such authority must first be tested as part of a pilot program;
  • The pilot program must comply with the requirements of Section 350 of the 2002 appropriations legislation and the requirements of Section 31315(c) of Title 49, United States Code, related to the pilot programs; and
  • Simultaneous and comparable authority to operate within Mexico is made available to motor carriers domiciled in the United States.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, submitted the amendment to the Senate Appropriations Committee and it was accepted on a voice vote – with no opposition.

Section 4001 is part of the controversial supplemental appropriations bill that will, among other things, fund military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President George W. Bush has already threatened to veto the bill if it contains pull-out deadlines for the troops in Iraq.

But, that’s not the only reason Bush is poised to veto the bill – and he’s been very clear from very early on in the process about why he plans to veto the bill.

When the Senate was debating its original bill, the White House issued a “Statement of Administrative Policy” threatening to veto the bill if it makes it to the president as-is.

While there were numerous other amendments attached to the supplemental appropriations bill, the amendment to delay the opening of the border was one of the amendments specifically addressed by the White House staff in the statement.

“The administration strongly objects to language intended to block the implementation of cross-border trucking provisions as required under NAFTA. Since 1995, the federal government has spent over half a billion dollars, primarily in hiring safety inspectors and building inspection facilities along the border that will ensure that implementation can be carried out safely and consistent with Congressional direction,” White House staffers wrote in the statement.

“The failure to implement this international obligation would hurt American shippers, consumers and long-haul truckers.”

That argument doesn’t hold water with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – a strong supporter of the amendment.

“Furthering a misguided international obligation is hardly justification for ignoring the very valid safety and security concerns that opening our border presents,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

“That flawed logic makes it all the more important to communicate your support of this amendment to your senators immediately.”

– By Jami Jones, senior editor