FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120, 4 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 120 (2000)


created a distinct scheme for addressing the subject, and that scheme excludes any role for FDA regulation. Pp. 143-159.

(d) Finally, the Court's inquiry is shaped, at least in some measure, by the nature of the question presented. Chevron deference is premised on the theory that a statute's ambiguity constitutes an implicit delegation from Congress to the agency to fill in the statutory gaps. See 467 U. S., at 844. In extraordinary cases, however, there may be reason to hesitate before concluding that Congress has intended such an implicit delegation. This is hardly an ordinary case. Contrary to the agency's position from its inception until 1995, the FDA has now asserted jurisdiction to regulate an industry constituting a significant portion of the American economy. In fact, the FDA contends that, were it to determine that tobacco products provide no "reasonable assurance of safety," it would have the authority to ban cigarettes and smokeless tobacco entirely. It is highly unlikely that Congress would leave the determination as to whether the sale of tobacco products would be regulated, or even banned, to the FDA's discretion in so cryptic a fashion. See MCI Telecommunications, supra, at 231. Given tobacco's unique political history, as well as the breadth of the authority that the FDA has asserted, the Court is obliged to defer not to the agency's expansive construction of the statute, but to Congress' consistent judgment to deny the FDA this power. Pp. 159-161.

(e) No matter how important, conspicuous, and controversial the issue, and regardless of how likely the public is to hold the Executive Branch politically accountable, an administrative agency's power to regulate in the public interest must always be grounded in a valid grant of authority from Congress. Courts must take care not to extend a statute's scope beyond the point where Congress indicated it would stop. E. g., United States v. Article of Drug . . . Bacto-Unidisk, 394 U. S. 784, 800. P. 161.

153 F. 3d 155, affirmed.

O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined, post, p. 161.

Solicitor General Waxman argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Acting Assistant Attorney General Ogden, Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Schultz, Irving L. Gornstein, Eugene Thirolf, Douglas Letter, Gerald C. Kell, Chris-


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