Stroke of Clinton’s Pen Fells ICC, Oldest Regulatory Agency
President Clinton signed legislation Saturday shutting down the Interstate Commerce Commission, an independent federal agency created more than a century ago to ride herd on railroad “robber barons.”
The ICC was the government’s oldest regulatory agency. Its elimination is a rare example of a government agency closing its doors. It will go out of business permanently on New Year’s Day.
Clinton said that while the ICC had clearly outlived its usefulness, he was nonetheless disappointed at the approach taken by the GOP Congress.
“While it eliminates the ICC, it creates a new independent agency, the Surface Transportation Board, within the Transportation Department,” Clinton said in a written statement. “Overall, the bill falls short of my administration’s much bolder proposal for extensive deregulation of the transportation industry.”
Congress established the ICC in 1887, in part to appease train riders angry because railroads often charged more for short trips than for longer journeys. It grew to considerable power by the middle of this century, but its activities dwindled in the modern era of deregulation.
Its main remaining functions focused on approving mergers and making sure truckers and other carriers had the proper licenses and insurance.
The Department of Transportation will be in charge of licensing and will approve or disapprove railroad mergers. Trucking mergers will be referred to the Justice Department.