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Senate vote a blow to Bush

July 27, 2001|By MARINE COLE, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — The Senate voted Thursday to bring to a vote a measure on the terms under which Mexican trucks are allowed to enter the United States in compliance with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

By voting 70-30 to end a filibuster, the Senate sided with Democrats, who needed 60 votes to end the delaying tactic used to prevent a vote on a bill or an amendment.

"This vote is a vote about truck safety," said Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. "What the issue is not about is any threat to NAFTA, any threat to free trade."

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-sponsored the amendment to the transportation appropriations bill that would toughen safety requirements for Mexican trucks. Because they garnered 70 votes to end the filibuster, it appears likely they have the support to pass the amendment after 30 hours of debate.


The vote to end the filibuster was a blow to President Bush, who opposed the amendment.

"I urge Congress to deal fairly with Mexico and to not treat the Mexican truck industry in an unfair fashion," said Bush Wednesday in a meeting with members of Congress. "I believe strongly we can have safety measures in place that will make sure our highways are safe."

Bush said that Mexico should not be singled out.

"Mexico is our close friend and ally and we must treat them with respect and uphold NAFTA and the spirit of NAFTA," he said.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, who opposed the amendment, said it would mean some NAFTA provisions could not be enforced.

"We have an amendment that claims being about safety while it is about protectionism," he said.

Gramm said when the president negotiates an agreement with sovereign foreign nations, the president commits the nation with his signature. When Congress approves that signature, it is bound by the agreement and it can't come back after the fact. Gramm also said Mexico had threatened retaliation with trade measures if Senate voted to change the terms of NAFTA by approving the amendment.

"I'm not concerned about starting a trade war with Mexico, I'm concerned about what we're doing to President (Vicente) Fox," Gramm said.

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