Senate opposes longer trucks on highway

WASHINGTON — The Senate last week voiced its opposition to a trucking industry proposal that would allow longer double-trailer rigs on all the nation’s highways, citing issues of safety and state rights.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., argued against extending the current 28-foot limit per trailer to 33 feet, saying that would override 38 states that have bans on longer trucks.

“The question is whether we as a Senate, we as a Congress, we as a federal government are going to mandate to these 38 states that don’t allow these to allow them on their roads,” he said.

Trucking groups argue that the longer “twin-33s,” which would be used almost exclusively on interstate highways, would reduce the number of trucks on the roads — helping to ease congestion and lower shipping costs.

The Senate voted 56-31 to instruct Senate conferees to oppose the longer trailer limit during negotiations with the House over a broader six-year transportation bill. The Senate had earlier voted 82-7 to go to conference to negotiate a final version of the transportation bill. The Senate had approved its version in July. The House passed its bill last week.

Congress faces a Nov. 20 deadline to complete work on a conference report and prevent a gap in highway funding.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted in favor of keeping the federal 28-foot trailer limit, although Nevada permits the longer rigs. He also voted for the highway bill. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., did not vote. Weather conditions prevented him from getting to Washington.

Revised defense bill approved

The Senate sent President Barack Obama a 2016 defense policy bill that revised an earlier version he vetoed last month over concerns that it sidestepped federal budget caps by channeling extra funding through an off-budget war fund.

The revised bill maintains the same policy provisions of the earlier agreement — including a ban on moving detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the United States — but now reflects $5 billion in cuts to conform to a two-year budget agreement that Obama signed into law earlier in the week. In all, Congress would allow the military to spend up to $607 billion in the 2016 fiscal year.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president will likely sign the bill despite objecting to the ban. He also noted that the administration is still hoping to shutter the detainee facility.

The vote was 91-3. Reid voted in favor. Heller did not vote.

The House was not in session last week.

Contact Peter Urban at purban@reviewjournal.com or at 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @PUrbanDC.

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