Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) took to the Senate floor in opposition of Senator Herb Kohl’s (D-WI) railroad antitrust amendment. Lee opposes the amendment because it would add an additional layer of government oversight to an industry already burdened by extensive government regulation. A portion of the remarks are available below, and the full text can be viewed here.
“I rise in opposition to the railroad antitrust amendment offered by my distinguished colleague, Senator Kohl, and I urge my fellow Senators to do likewise.
“As the Antitrust Modernization Commission noted in 2007, вЂњfree market competition is the fundamental economic policy of the United States.вЂќВ In advancing this overarching policy goal, we should be wary of particularized exemptions from our nationвЂ™s antitrust laws.В I know that Senator Kohl shares my view in that regard.В When properly applied, antitrust laws function to help ensure that market forces promote robust competition, spur innovation, and result in the greatest benefit to consumers.
“In many respects, federal and state agencies enforce antitrust laws in order to forestall the need for burdensome and long-lasting government regulation.В If competition thrives and market forces operate properly, there is no need for extensive government intrusion or interference.В Likewise, where the antitrust laws do apply, comprehensive economic regulations should not dictate how an industry operates.
“It makes little sense to impose upon a heavily-regulated industry an additional layer of government oversight and enforcement through the application of antitrust laws, while at the same time leaving in place a comprehensive regime of government oversight through economic regulation.В Piling layer upon layer of government interference will not advance the cause of free market competition, innovation, and consumer welfare.
“I am concerned that such layering of government regulation is effectively what the Kohl amendment does.В I worry that in extending the reach of antitrust laws to the freight rail industry, the amendment does not remove any authority or jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board, the regulatory agency currently overseeing the rail industry.В As a result, the amendment simply imposes additional government supervision over the rail industry with attendant increased regulatory burdens and costs, as well as inevitable conflicts and uncertainties resulting from a second layer of government oversight of the same activities.В Given the highly-regulated nature of the freight rail industry, application of antitrust laws would likely require courts to wade into the complex realm of rate-setting and other highly technical matters вЂ“ a task for which judges are ill-equipped.”