SPECIAL REPORT: Amendment seeks to cut cross-border program funds

| 7/24/2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 – An amendment introduced by three members of the House of Representatives aims to cut off all funding for any sort of cross-border program with Mexican motor carriers.

Monday, July 23, members of the House began consideration of HR3074, the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008.

In its second day of consideration, Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, Duncan Hunter, R-CA, Gary Miller, R-CA, and Nancy Boyda, D-KS, introduced an amendment to the legislation calling for a stop of all funding for cross-border trucking programs with Mexico.

Several members of the House voiced their strong support of the amendment.

“This is a tremendous step toward protecting the motoring public,” DeFazio said in introducing the amendment. “It will move us away from ‘faith-based’ program.”

In a short statement of support, Hunter pointed out the proposed program poses a security risk to the United States.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-OH, highlighted Hunter’s point when she told lawmakers about Mexican trucks actually making it all the way to Ohio – well outside the border zone – where the truckers were driving with “vice grips.”

“We need to fix the problem we have today,” she said. “That border is a sieve.”

The amendment was added to HR3074 on a voice vote. The full bill will come up for a vote later in the week.

The amendment states that “none of the funds made available under this act may be used to establish or implement a cross-border motor carrier demonstration or pilot project or program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones on the United States-Mexico border.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a national Call to Action urging truckers to call their representatives in support of the amendment.

The OOIDA Call to Action said the amendment seeks to ensure that the Department of Transportation abides by the intentions of Congress and stops moving ahead with this “outrageous” pilot program.

This is the third time members of the House of Representatives have sent a clear message to the Bush administration that the proposed program is chock-full of problems and should not proceed.

In May, the House passed HR1773, the Safe American Roads Act, with a vote of 411-3. Subsequently, portions of that legislation were included in an emergency supplemental appropriations bill signed into law by the president.

That legislation mandates a list of laws and regulations, including commercial driver’s license requirements that the secretary of transportation must designate if the U.S. will accept compliance with a corresponding Mexican law. The DOT will also have to include an analysis of how the U.S. and Mexican laws and regulations differ.

Now, because of the supplemental appropriations legislation, the Office of Inspector General must sign off on several more provisions of Section 350 of the 2002 transportation appropriations legislation. That audit began in late June.

Section 350 outlined 22 conditions the DOT had to meet before allowing Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate in the U.S. It required independent verification by the OIG of only eight of those conditions.

Even after OIG signs off on the added provisions of Section 350, its work is not done. Oversight of the program is assigned to the inspector.

However, even though the DOT has published information on the pilot program, it obviously did not impress members of the House of Representatives.

More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – with close to a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans – signed a letter to President Bush that expressed “grave concerns” on the administration’s continued push to get the program rolling and urged suspension of the program.

The letter was delivered to the president July 3.

“The U.S. Congress and the American people seriously question the ability of Mexican motor carriers and drivers to adhere to our country's strict safety rules, as well as the administration's preparedness and willingness to ensure Mexican truck drivers obey our homeland security and immigration rules,” House members wrote in the letter.

To see the OOIDA national Call to Action, click here.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor