Obama administration plans to impose a toll on land travellers crossing the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico were scrapped Thursday.
The proposed toll, which sparked angry responses on both sides of the borders, was blocked in a rare show of bipartisan unanimity by Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
“Canada is the United States’ No. 1 trading partner," said Vermont Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who, along with Texas Republican John Cornyn, co-sponsored an amendment blocking any attempt to impose a crossing fee. "Some 300,000 Canadians cross into our country every day and spend nearly $235-million,” Senator Leahy said.
The amendment passed on a voice vote in the judiciary committee.
It effectively killed a Homeland Security suggestion contained in Mr. Obama’s proposed budget that tolls on pedestrian and vehicular traffic crossing the Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. borders be considered as a means of raising revenues for the cash-strapped federal government.
"Whether they’re from northern Vermont or southwest Texas, Americans living in border communities know their lives are interwoven with their neighbours across the border," the Senate amendment's preamble said.
"Our children play sports across the border. Our fire departments respond across the border. Our neighbours come across the border to shop, eat, and contribute to our local economy. Imposing a fee and tax to travel back and forth would put a barrier between neighbours and hurt American communities."
When the toll was first proposed, Canadian business groups, among others, were quick to condemn it.
“Building the walls higher and making the borders stickier and thicker is exactly the wrong way to go,” said Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Anything that drives up costs discourages traffic.”
The Leahy-Cornyn amendment has no impact on existing border-crossing fees, such as tolls for using bridges at the border.
Those are not imposed by either federal government.