Battle lines have been drawn between those who want to require tougher regulation of Mexican trucks before they are allowed to enter the U.S. early next year and supporters of President Bush who oppose such a plan.
In the midst of all of this is former Bush rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He’s backing the administration, which has promised a presidential veto if tougher Mexican truck rules reach the President’s desk.
On one side is a group of senators led by Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). They’re co-sponsoring a bill that passed a committee last week that would require safety audits of Mexican carriers and their trucks before they could drive further into the U.S.
On the other side is a group led by McCain, who promised Tuesday to shut down Senate work to a crawl if supporters of such legislation continue with their efforts.
McCain and Phil Gramm (R-Texas) offered up a measure that would have barred any safety regulations for Mexican trucks that did not also apply to Canadian trucks or trucks from U.S. carriers, but it was defeated in a 65-35 vote.
Debate on the measure was tense as Minority Leader Trent Lott (D-Miss.) accused the mainly Democratic forces in favor of the tougher Mexican truck rules as being “anti-Hispanic.” Democrats dismissed the remarks, saying Lott is wrong. Rather, they are targeting Mexican trucks for tougher enforcement because they say statistics show them to be much more dangerous.
McCain said earlier this week he has put together a coalition of at least 34 senators supporting the administration’s stance against imposing further Mexican truck rules, which would be enough to keep a presidential veto of such a measure from being overridden, should such a plan be passed.
Legislation that would keep Mexican trucks out of the U.S. has already passed the House. Late last month, in a surprise move, lawmakers passed a measure eliminating funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to process the applications of Mexican carriers wishing to do business in U.S., effectively barring them from further entry. Both the House and Senate measures are part of next year’s transportation appropriations bills.
Supporters of allowing Mexican trucks unfettered access say the U.S. can not continuing denying access in the wake of a North American Free Trade Agreement arbitration panel ruling earlier this year. That panel found the U.S. in violation of the accord, leading President Bush to promise the border would fully open January 1 of next year.