SPECIAL REPORT: Sen. Dorgan takes aim at cross-border program

| 7/10/2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008 – Sen. Byron Dorgan doesn’t forget things easily.

When the U.S. Department of Transportation sidestepped legislation he sponsored in 2007 that cut off funding to the cross-border program with Mexico, he wasn’t pleased.

The DOT’s legal team determined the program could continue based on a very narrow interpretation of one word in the legislation.

Dorgan’s amendment in the 2008 appropriations legislation stated: “None of the funds made available under this Act may be used to establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico.”

The DOT attorneys zeroed in on the word “establish” and said that since the program started in September of 2007, and not after the legislation was signed into law, the program could continue.

Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, wasn’t pleased and defended the intent behind his legislation to no avail. The program continues to this day.

He obviously is trying to prevent the same word game end-around on his legislative attempt to cut off funding of the program in the 2009 transportation appropriations legislation that is currently in the works.

Dorgan’s 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 on-going programs, “… including continuing, in whole or in part, any such program that was initiated prior to the date of the enactment of this Act.”

The Senate Committee on Appropriations on Thursday approved the amendment, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, by a vote of 20 to 9.

The amendment is now part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2009 legislation. The legislation was approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. It now awaits full committee approval.

The appropriations bill allocates the Department of Transportation $66.8 billion, $2.1 billion more than for fiscal year 2008.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor