WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans say they and President Bush will prevail this fall when the battle resumes over whether Mexican trucks entering the United States should meet strict new safety standards.
But at least for now, Democrats were claiming victory in a battle that asserted the power of the Teamsters union, which supported the proposed rules, and inflicted a blow to Bush and supporters of free trade.
Bush has threatened to veto the standards.
The conflicting claims came Wednesday as GOP senators halted their delaying tactics after more than a week and allowed passage of legislation that would require the truck rules. In a clear challenge to Bush, the Senate approved by voice vote a $60.1 billion transportation spending bill that contains the proposed regulations.
"I guarantee the Senate right here, right now" that there will be enough votes to uphold a veto if Bush must cast one, said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.
It would take the votes of 34 senators to do that. Even so, opponents of the truck standards insisted on a voice vote for the bill's passage amid expectations that fewer than 34 senators at this point would oppose the legislation, which is packed with popular hometown spending projects.
Sens. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, and John McCain, R-Ariz., also threatened to use every procedural delay they can to slow the Senate from formally beginning bargaining with the House over the regulations. The House approved an outright ban on Mexican trucks driving across the United States, which Bush also threatened to veto.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., was chief author of the Senate package, ruled out bargaining with the White House before negotiations start with the House.
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