House approves opening U.S. borders to Mexican trucks, but with stricter inspections than Bush wanted

Friday, November 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House voted Friday to allow Mexican trucks to begin making deliveries throughout the United States, but with tougher safety inspection requirements than President Bush initially sought.

Two days after White House and congressional bargainers reached agreement on the issue, the House approved a spending bill containing the compromise language by 371-11. The underlying bill provides $59.6 billion for this year's transportation programs, $1.5 billion more than last year's total, and Senate passage is expected next week.

The deal defused a political confrontation in which Bush threatened to veto restrictions lawmakers wanted to clamp on his plan to let Mexican trucks drive anywhere in the United States beginning in January. Unions and safety groups were lobbying for blocking the trucks, while business groups wanted to allow their entry.

The House voted in June to prevent the trucks from driving across this country. In August, the Senate voted to let them in only after Mexican trucking companies and truck drivers could satisfy an array of inspection, insurance and other standards.

Under the agreement, U.S. safety officials would inspect the sites of half of all Mexican motor carriers seeking to enter the United States that have four or more trucks.

U.S. border agents would have to electronically verify the licenses of drivers of all Mexican trucks carrying hazardous materials, and half of all other Mexican truck drivers. And within a year, truck scales would have to be installed at the 10 busiest border crossings.

Bush initially proposed letting Mexican vehicles into the United States while their companies were audited over 18 months.

The underlying bill would boost spending over last year's levels for many highway, aviation and mass transit programs, as well as for the Coast Guard.

It directs hundreds of millions of dollars to dozens of lawmakers' home districts, including $20 million for a parking garage in Charleston, S.C., and $70 million for a light rail system extension in Dallas.

The measure would also require Washington, D.C., area transit officials to alter signs and maps to reflect the full name of Reagan Washington National Airport. Republicans object that Reagan's name is currently omitted.