Late last week, officials scrambled to begin moving Mexican trucks across the border beyond the 25-mile limit even though U.S. trucks are still limited to 25 miles in Mexico. They finally pushed the first one across in the dead of night last Saturday avoiding negative publicity about the program. Little did they know a truck that was not authorized to carry explosives in Mexico was breaking the rules and would end up in front page news as it exploded leaving a 40-foot crater as a memorial.
Even though the fireball express wasn't bound for the U.S., it took just 1 day for the Senate to act on a previously House-passed ammendment (to a transportation funding bill) voting 74-24 to shut down the pilot trucking program. The bill was sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa in a bi-partisan effort focused on previous safety problems with Mexican trucks and an obvious reaction to the explosion. No doubt, Hoffa and the Teamsters had some influence as Senators look forward to next year's elections and upcoming presidential primaries.
What's interesting about the vote is that it attached an ammendment to a bill President Bush has already said he would veto because it's too bloated. That bill also carries funding for bridge repairs even though the Transportation budget already carries funding for that purpose. This puts President Bush in a position of having to kill the bill risking criticism that he doesn't support fixing the collapsing bridge problem. Those who vote for the ammendment get to report to the Teamsters that they did all they could to save union jobs, but Bush vetoed the bill. At this point, it looks more like Senators were making a statement rather than standing up for the Teamsters. In any case, more questions have been raised about who really supports the NAFTA trucking program which appears to be in jeopardy.