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Bill to speed travel over Peace Bridge endangered by one senator’s fit of pique

We are shaking our heads.

One can only hope that a nonsensical issue over whether commercial airline pilots should be carrying guns does not permanently derail legislation that could lead to less congestion at the Peace Bridge.

This may be just a temporary glitch, but so far it seems as if Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has dug in his heels to get guns in cockpits.

He is taking advantage of arcane rules of the Senate that allow any member to put a hold on legislation, whenever and for whatever reason. His stubbornness will have real consequences for this region unless his colleagues can talk some sense into him.

As News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski reported, the Senate passed legislation reauthorizing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. That bill fortunately rejected a damaging amendment that would have weakened the pilot experience standards the Families of Continental Flight 3407 worked so hard to get into law in 2010. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who proposed the amendment, withdrew it after entreaties from Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, both New York Democrats.

Before final passage, senators from both parties prepared a package of 26 noncontroversial amendments to the FAA bill. One of them is the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act, which would give U.S. border agents the authority to operate in Canada.

Schumer and Gillibrand authored the amendment as part of a range of actions aimed at reducing congestion on the tightly squeezed U.S. side of the border. It would allow federal officials to begin negotiations with Canada on regulations that would authorize cargo bound for the United States to be pre-inspected on the Canadian side of the bridge.

Preclearance has been under discussion for some time and the two senators and Buffalo-area House members have been championing the idea as a way to ease Peace Bridge congestion. The truck plaza on the U.S. side of the span is too small to efficiently handle the volume of trucks entering the United States. There is room on the Canadian side for U.S. border agents to preclear trucks, but legislation is needed before that can happen.

Enter Rand. Upset that the Senate would not consider his amendment suggesting commercial pilots be armed, he placed a hold on the entire package, including the border preclearance amendment.

Rand is doing a disservice to this region. Schumer and Gillibrand worked hard crafting support for an amendment to take care of a long-standing issue involving commerce, and the Kentucky senator put a halt to it because he couldn’t get what he wanted. Schumer has it right: “I think it’s absurd. It’s ideology, gone crazy.”

Schumer managed to extract an agreement from Sen. John R. Thune, R-S.D., chief author of the FAA bill, to allow the Canadian border amendment and other noncontroversial measures into the compromise package that the Senate and House will negotiate.

This is too important an issue for the senator from Kentucky to derail, just because he can.