Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 13 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

tion—that the presence of a phrase in one provision and its absence in another reveals Congress' design—grows weaker with each difference in the formulation of the provisions under inspection.

Respondents' restrictive reading of the term "State," we note, introduces an interpretive conundrum of another kind. Section 14501(c)(1) preempts the power of both States and localities to "enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision." (Emphasis added.) Those conjoined words travel together. If, as Ours Garage and TRAO argue, the safety exception of 14501(c)(2)(A) reaches only States, then localities are preempted not only from enacting, but equally from enforcing, safety regulations governing motor carriers of property—even if those regulations are enacted by the state legislature. It is unlikely that Congress would preserve States' power to enact safety rules and, at the same time, bar the ordinary method by which States enforce such rules— through their local instrumentalities.3

14501(c)(2)(A). The dissent, although it urges that "we should take seriously the references to States and subdivisions of States where they appear," post, at 447, rests upon the fact that subdivisions of States do not appear in the safety exception—as they also do not in the household-goods exception of 14501(c)(2)(B). That 14501(c)(2) comprises three exceptions, each differently stated, seems to us indeed relevant to the interpretive weight that may be attached to the variation among them.

3 Faced with this argument, the dissent is converted, however temporarily, to the view that "federal interference with the 'historic powers of the States' must be evinced by a 'plain statement.' " Post, at 450, n. 4 (quoting Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U. S. 452, 461 (1991)). The dissent finds no plain statement in 14501(c)(1)'s prohibition on local enforcement because it can be read to mean only that "a political subdivision may not enact new laws or enforce its previously enacted laws" relating to motor carriage of property. Post, at 450, n. 4. This is by no means the most natural reading of the preemption provision. The suggestion of the dissent is that, as applied to localities, 14501(c)(1) preempts only local enforcement of locally enacted laws. See ibid. This interpretation raises the startling possibility that, although 14501(c)(1) prohibits both States and localities

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