Senate Supports Efforts to Keep Border Closed to Mexican Trucks
The U.S. Senate spoke out against the Bush administration’s attempt to allow unfettered access to U.S. highways by Mexican trucks by passing a supplemental appropriations bill March 29 that included a provision to stop the pilot program.
“I applaud the Senate’s passage of this important provision,” says Jim Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters transportation labor union. “We cannot allow the administration to push through this pilot program before Mexico is able to adhere to the safety and security standards outlined by Congress.”
The Senate’s provision blocks funding for the pilot program, requires the Transportation Department to publish details of the plan and provides time for public comment. It will also require that the pilot project meet congressionally mandated safety and security standards.
The bill now goes to a conference committee with the House.
The amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill was sponsored by Democratic Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Dianne Feinstein of California, and it was adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee March 22.
The Senate passed the supplemental appropriations bill with the Teamsters Union provision intact, sending a strong message to proponents of the pilot program.
“The Bush administration is trying to circumvent safety requirements by repackaging the plan as a pilot project,” Hoffa said. “This will allow up to 100 Mexican trucking firms open access to U.S. highways, putting American drivers at risk.”
On a separate front, Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kansas), has introduced the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, a bill also designed to restrict the pilot program. The bill has received the support of Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.
The legislation’s goals include prohibiting the Transportation Department from granting authority to Mexican motor carriers beyond the commercial zone and requiring the pilot program to comply with all 22 safety and security requirements outlined the FY 2002 Transportation Department Appropriations Act.
“Nearly everyone I have spoken to in Congress agrees that there are too many questions that remain unanswered, too many concerns left unaddressed surrounding this ill-advised pilot program,” Hoffa says. “There is no logical reason to allow the border to be opened at this time.”