A key House Democrat is questioning whether the Obama administration has the authority to launch a new cross-border trucking program with Mexico.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., wants the Department of Transportation to provide proof that it is operating within its legal authority in establishing a broad program.
The U.S. and Mexico signed an agreement this month to phase in a cross-border trucking program, eventually granting Mexican carriers U.S. authority.
That rankles the Oregon Democrat DeFazio, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and the subcommittee's former chairman.
"I am greatly concerned that the administration is not launching a pilot program, but rather starting the full liberalization of cross-border trucking," DeFazio said.
"DOT is required by law to first test granting authority to Mexican carriers under a pilot program," DeFazio said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The letter is a warning shot at an administration that appears to be looking for a route around a potential congressional roadblock for its cross-border trucking plan.
The White House said it would consult key members of Congress on the final nature of an agreement. Negotiators are still hammering out the plan's details.
The DOT did conduct a pilot project from 2007 through 2009, a project DeFazio and other Democrats opposed. Congress eliminated that project in March 2009.
In reaction, the Mexican government imposed retaliatory tariffs on nearly 100 U.S. products, claiming the U.S. had reneged on its NAFTA treaty obligations.
Democrats in Congress are likely to challenge the administration's authority to open the border to Mexican trucks, but it's not clear that they would have the votes.
Some key House Republicans argue the trucking impasse and retaliatory tariffs are hurting U.S. exporters and costing the U.S. thousands of jobs.
-- Contact William B. Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org.