Photo courtesy of TxDOT
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar recently led a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers representing Texas communities urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to quickly implement a key provision they included in the recently enacted 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that advances several international bridge projects in Texas.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar recently led a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers representing Texas communities in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to quickly implement a key provision they included in the recently enacted 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that advances several international bridge projects in Texas. Joining Cruz and Cuellar in sending the letter are Sen. John Cornyn and Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Monica de la Cruz, Tony Gonzales and Joaquin Castro.
"Now that our bipartisan legislation to expedite the permitting of South Texas cross-border bridges has become law, it is critical that the Biden administration swiftly implements this provision and grants the presidential permits for these critical projects," Cruz said. "The lifeblood of South Texas is the roughly $800 billion in goods that cross the border with Mexico and it supports jobs throughout the Lone Star State. I am thankful to Congressman Cuellar and to all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have worked to get this common-sense legislation signed into law and look forward to seeing progress on these bridges begin immediately."
Photo courtesy of TxDOT
Cuellar added, "Laredo is the nation's busiest port of entry and recent changes to the Presidential permitting process will ensure that proposed construction projects at the World Trade Bridge, Colombia Solidarity Bridge and other bridges along the U.S.-Mexico border avoid unnecessary construction delays. I joined this bipartisan letter with my colleagues to emphasize that the Administration needs to act expeditiously in implementing this provision to expand our ports of entry."
Mexico is one of the United States' most important trading partners with nearly $800 billion in goods exchanged in 2022. These international bridges will expand trade, creating vital jobs and economic opportunities in the Texas border region and helping improve supply chains across the country. Section 5414 of the NDAA establishes a clear process for the administration to issue presidential permits for international bridge projects in three counties in Texas.
"We are writing to urge you to quickly implement a key provision in the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (NDAA) that advances several international bridge projects in Texas," lawmakers wrote.
In the Works
In June 2023, Cruz led the entire south Texas congressional delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, in sending a letter to Blinken urging the Biden administration to resolve delays in providing permits for four international Texas bridge projects.
In July 2023, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted Cruz's amendment to streamline the presidential permitting process for building these key bridges across the Rio Grande. The amendment, which was included in a bill authorizing funding for the State Department, was ultimately passed by the entire Senate as part of the NDAA, on July 27, 2023. Cruz vowed to keep working to see that his amendment is part of the final defense bill that is signed into law.
Photo courtesy of Presidiotx.us
In October 2023, Cruz again led a letter, this time to President Biden, expressing frustration, "over the delayed issuance of presidential permits for key bridge projects between the United States and Mexico," and urging the president to, "swiftly approve these four critical Texas-Mexico bridge projects that will create jobs, improve supply chain resiliency, and promote economic growth."
In December 2023, the annual defense authorization bill was passed with a provision, pushed by a bipartisan and bicameral coalition of Texas legislators, to streamline the presidential permitting process for new and expanded bridges across the Rio Grande in Brownsville, Laredo and Eagle Pass. This language, which Cruz had inserted into the Senate's (NDAA) and battled to keep in the final bill, was an important victory that will help alleviate border crossing bottlenecks, expand trade and create jobs.
Last month, Cruz and Rep. Cuellar hosted a press conference with key stakeholders at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo to tout the signing of this legislation.
Cruz's bipartisan effort to streamline the presidential permitting process for Texas-Mexico bridge projects is supported by a diverse group of stakeholders, including:
- Texas Association of Business;
- U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce;
- Laredo Motor Carriers Association;
- Border Trade Alliance;
- American Trucking Associations;
- Texas Trucking Association;
- Texas International Produce Association.
Photo courtesy of FreightWaves
Under this provision, the State Department has 60 days to recommend to the president whether he should approve or deny the applications for a presidential permit. For applications submitted prior to enactment of this provision, that timeline starts on the date of enactment of the NDAA [Dec. 22, 2023]. Further, the provision makes clear that the basis for the recommendation, "shall be whether the international bridge is in the foreign policy interests of the United States," lawmakers wrote. "It is clear the relevant international bridges in Texas are in the foreign policy interest of the United States given they will strengthen ties with our southern neighbor and bring benefits to international trade, supply chains, economic development and job creation. After you have given the president the recommendation, the president will have 60 days to approve or deny the applications for presidential permits.
"It is vital that the State Department adhere to the requirements of Section 5414 of the NDAA and expeditiously recommend to the president that he grant the presidential permits for these critical international bridge project," lawmakers added. "The sooner the president approves the presidential permits for these projects, the sooner these projects will deliver more jobs, make supply chains more efficient, and improve relations with Mexico."
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