SPECIAL REPORT: Cross-border provision heading to president’s desk

| 4/26/2007

THURSDAY, April 26, 2007 – The Senate joined the House of Representatives Thursday in approving a bill that contains a provision targeting the Bush administration’s cross-border trucking plan.

The amendment, previously Section 4001 of the U.S. Senate’s supplemental appropriations bill, was included in the bill by the House on Wednesday with a vote of 218-208. The Senate approved the bill early Thursday with a vote of 51-46.

As of press time, the bill was set to be sent to the president.

His signature on the legislation isn’t likely. 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 made it to the president as it was worded at that point.

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.”

With the appropriations bill having been through conference committee, marked-up and agreed upon, it is not yet known what the section number of the cross-border amendment will be.

The language, still in tact, 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.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor