Even as a House committee gave it a procedural go-ahead, a funding bill that contains several provisions sought by the trucking industry would likely face a veto, the White House said Monday.
The annual appropriations package for the Transportation and the Housing departments (HR 2577), also known as the T-HUD bill, includes policy riders that would extend a suspension of the restart rules contained in the 2013 change in hours of service, would permit twin 33-foot trailers on Interstates, and would block an increase in carrier financial responsibility minimums.
While the White House policy statement broadly objects to Republican spending limits and the impact of cuts on “critical investment in transportation that creates jobs, helps to grow the economy, and improves America's roads, bridges, transit infrastructure, and aviation systems,” the administration “strongly objects” to the specific motor carrier language “that would undercut public safety.”
“In particular, section 132 would undermine the Administration's existing regulatory work to ensure appropriate standards for commercial truck drivers' rest. The bill imposes criteria that would in all likelihood be impossible to meet, therefore preventing critical safety provisions from taking effect,” the statement reads. “This provision combined with the troubling changes to truck size and weight limit could significantly compromise safety on our Nation's roads.”
Democrats on the House Rules committee also continued to voice objections to the provisions.
“The trucking industry hit the lottery with this bill. These policy riders are blatantly authorizing on appropriations, and there was not a single hearing on these truck riders,” said Rep. James McGovern (D-MA). “These issues should be openly debated as part of a comprehensive surface transportation authorization bill, not tacked on in a sweetheart deal.”
He called on Congress to block any truck size and weight changes until the DOT completes the congressionally mandated study on the impact on road conditions and safety.
“We’re saying bigger and heavier trucks are okay, but we’re not going to provide any additional funds to make these roads adequate and safe,” McGovern said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
But Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), vice chairman of the committee, defended lawmakers’ right to address policy issues in a spending bill.
“When I’m faced with the rules that are coming out of this administration, that are ham-stringing practically every part of our economy, I have to say that protesting our doing this on an appropriations bill is a little off-key to me,” Foxx said.
In a series of partisan procedural votes, the Rules committee reported the bill to the full House as a modified open rule, which allows for pre-printed amendments but limits debate. The bill could be brought to floor late this week.