SPECIAL REPORT: Senate considers cross-border program funding

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 3/2/2009

Monday, March 2, 2009 – The debate over funding for the cross-border trucking program with Mexico is heating up as the Senate gets ready to vote on the bill that contains the funding cut.

Today, the Senate began work on the enormous appropriations bill that funds government agencies. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives this past week.

One of the provisions drawing fire doesn’t set aside money for any government programs. Rather, it takes money away from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cross-border “demonstration” trucking program with Mexico.

Losing its funding should essentially mean the end to a program that OOIDA has fought to stop even before it started.

Many multinational companies and various other groups are pressuring senators to either kill the provision or water it down to the point that the cross-border program can continue.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long opposed opening the border to long-haul operations for Mexico-domiciled motor carriers, citing Mexico’s poor oversight of its trucking industry and the threat to the safety of highway users in the U.S.

The Association filed suit with the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in December 2007 seeking to stop the program. The court has not issued a ruling in the case.

Now, with the funding for the program in the hands of the Senate and the funding provision taking heavy fire, OOIDA has issued a second Call to Action urging members to call their senators in support of cutting off the funding in the upcoming vote. To read the Call to Action, click here.

The amendment that OOIDA is calling on members to support was introduced by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-ND. His amendment, if signed into law with the full transportation appropriations bill, prohibits the DOT from spending any money, either directly or indirectly, to “establish, implement, continue, promote, or in any way permit a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones …”

The amendment goes on to cut the funding of ongoing programs, “… including continuing, in whole or in part, any such program that was initiated prior to the date of the enactment of this Act.”

In order for Dorgan’s amendment to become reality, the Senate must pass the omnibus appropriations bill and it has to be signed into law.

The 12 bills that make up the 2009 appropriations funding legislation were due the first of October 2008. The money allocated in the currently debated appropriations legislation funds government agencies for the government’s 2009 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

Agencies have been running thanks to “continuing resolutions” of the 2008 appropriations legislation because the 2009 funding has not been passed or signed by the president. To read more on the appropriations process, click here.

Three of the 12 appropriations bills have been completed for 2009. Instead of passing each of the nine remaining appropriations bills separately, they have been rolled into one massive bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill sometime this week.

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