The House of Representatives voted 285 to 143 yesterday in favor of an amendment to block the Bush Administration's plans to allow Mexican trucks to ship goods to and from any point in the United States.
The House approved a measure late Tuesday to force Mexican trucks to meet American safety standards before they are allowed more access to American highways. The senate has yet to take action on the proposal.
"NAFTA is a trade pact, it is not a suicide pact," said Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI). "We are not required to put our motorists at risk in order to satisfy some international bureaucracy."
Passage of the amendment, sought by Democrats, was unexpected and unless reversed will confound Administration plans to open U.S. highways to Mexican trucks in January under the terms of NAFTA.
"The President thinks the action is wrong and is going to work to reverse it," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Meanwhile, two weeks ago, 10 Senate Democrats signed a letter asking President Bush to delay the border opening.
Reflecting the President's emphasis on improving U.S.-Mexican relations, the Bush Administration issued rules in May governing the circumstances under which Mexican trucks would be allowed onto U.S. roads.
The Transportation Department proposed that Mexican trucking companies file paperwork attesting to the vehicles' safety record before they enter the country. The Bush Administration provided money to hire an additional 80 inspectors, but that money was struck from the spending bill yesterday on technical grounds.