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WASHINGTON — The Senate could soon take up legislation, following action on a bill in the House, which would thwart the Bush administration from extending a cross-border trucking program with Mexico for two years.
The House passed a bill 395 to 18 Tuesday night under special rules requiring a two-thirds majority that would prohibit the secretary of transportation from granting authority to Mexican trucks to travel throughout the U.S. and direct the administration to terminate the program immediately.
President Bush threatened to veto the bill, saying safety concerns over Mexican trucks and drivers have been addressed through “intensified enforcement,” but the vote in the House provided a wide veto-proof margin.
The White House said in a statement, “If [the Department of Transportation] were forced to terminate the cross-border trucking demonstration project, opportunities and investment returns currently afforded U.S. motor carriers participating in the project would be compromised.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) the author of the bill, said during floor debate that it was time to put a stop to the Bush administration’s disregard of the intent of Congress to scrap the trucking program.
“Because the Department of Transportation has blatantly disregarded Congressional intent [to ban the program over safety concerns], I introduced this bill to ensure that the Mexican test pilot project be terminated and fully evaluated before the program is either expanded or continued and to reassert the authority of Congress in this matter,” DeFazio said.
The trucking program, which allows as many as 100 Mexican-based carriers to travel in the U.S. with reciprocity for U.S. trucks driving into Mexico, has been a flash point between the Bush administration and Congress for years. Congress has tried in three separate pieces of legislation to severely restrict, ban funding or eliminate the program altogether over safety concerns.
The administration has pushed the pilot program, arguing that it opens up opportunities for U.S. businesses because 75 percent of trade with Mexico moves by truck.
The two-year extension of the cross-border trucking program is supported by apparel importers that want to cut transportation costs by not having to transfer goods to U.S. trucks at the border. Importers shipped 2.8 billion square meters equivalent in apparel and textiles, valued at $5.3 billion, from Mexico to the U.S. in the year ended June 30.