Gramm vows to see the border open to Mexican trucks Jan. 1

| Tuesday, November 20, 2001

While Congress works to hammer out a transportation spending bill that includes policy for Mexican trucks, a sense of agreement on the touchy issue is clearly not developing amongst lawmakers. On Friday, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) vowed that on Jan. 1, the border will open to Mexican trucks or there will be no appropriations bill.

The new proposal from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen.Richard Shelby (R-AL), which made news last week, met with opposition from Gramm and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Gramm and McCain say they will oppose any provision that would prevent the United States from meeting NAFTA obligations to Mexico.

When the Senate and the House left town for an August recess, three different positions had been staked out on Mexican truck rules. The House passed a bill that would impose a one year ban on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from registering Mexican trucks to operate in the United States. The Senate passed a comprehensive list of preconditions that Mexican motor carriers and the FMCSA must meet before the border opens. Gramm, McCain and Kit Bond (R-MO) emerged in strong opposition. The White House threatened a veto should the final legislation prevent the border from opening Jan. 1.

Early this week, Sens. Murray and Shelby proposed a compromise to address the Bush administration's specific objections. The original Murray-Shelby amendment required Mexican carriers to purchase insurance from American companies, required every border crossing to have fixed scales and weigh-in-motion technology, and required Mexican trucks to undergo inspection each time one crossed the border into the United States. In the new Murray-Shelby compromise, Mexican carriers would be required to purchase insurance from a U.S.-licensed insurance company; Mexican trucks would only have to be inspected every 90 days; and while all border crossings are required to have scales to enforce weight restrictions, only the 10 busiest border crossings would be required to have weigh-in-motion scales.

The Murray-Shelby compromise continues to include a comprehensive list of preconditions to the border opening, including the mandatory on-site inspection of Mexican carriers, the computer validation of each Mexican driver's license by federal and state inspectors, and the requirement that Mexican trucks only make border crossings where a certified motor carrier safety inspector is on duty.

Despite the heightened concern with border security, Gramm says he will stall the transportation spending bill if the Murray-Shelby language is included. He added that no appropriations bill is better than one that does not comply with international treaties.

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