Senate Joins House, Votes to Abolish ICC

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Republicans won a small victory Tuesday in their mission to dismantle or shrink some government agencies when the Senate joined the House in voting to abolish the Interstate Commerce Commission.

On a voice vote, the Senate passed legislation to terminate the ICC, an independent federal agency established more than 100 years ago to control the excesses of railroad “robber barons.”

The House approved similar legislation on Nov. 14, and House-Senate negotiators now must reconcile differences.

Prospects for dismantling the agency look strong since the Clinton Administration also included the ICC’s demise in its long-term plans to balance the federal budget.


However, the White House said in a statement Tuesday that while it strongly supports the abolition of the ICC, it opposes the Senate bill because of provisions giving antitrust exemptions for the railroad and motor carrier industries, which the White House said would allow those industries “to impose artificially high rates on consumers.”

With fresh memories of the partial government shutdown caused by the impasse over the budget between the White House and the GOP-led Congress, the Senate attached an amendment that would cut off lawmakers’ salaries during such shutdowns.

Currently, salaries of members of the House and Senate are paid from a permanent appropriation. During a shutdown, their pay continues while hundreds of thousands of federal workers and some congressional staff employees are put on furlough with no guarantee of pay.

The amendment proposed by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was adopted on a voice vote.

The Senate version also includes an amendment by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), adopted on a 97-0 vote, that would increase penalties for sabotage against a train or motor vehicle carrying spent nuclear fuel or high-level nuclear waste.

Under the amendment, such sabotage would carry a minimum penalty of 30 years to life. Currently, the maximum penalty is 20 years. If death results, the minimum sentence would remain life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Congress has tried for years to kill the ICC, which now regulates trucking, bus lines and water carriers as well as railroads.