Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., sent a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, asking her to confirm that President Bush's nominee to head the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is not already running the agency.Byrd is concerned that Chao is trying to get around her constitutional obligations:
Byrd wrote in his letter to Chao, "I want to make sure that Mr. Stickler is serving as an advisor only, and is not assuming any of the duties or functions of the Assistance Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health."The Mineworkers union is also trying to get information on Stickler's duties:
Byrd cited the Senate's "advice and consent" role under the Constitution.
"To hire an individual as a consultant because the Senate has not yet confirmed his nomination creates the unsettling impression that the department is trying to circumvent the confirmation process," Byrd wrote to Chao.
The United Mine Workers of America recently sent a Freedom of Information Act letter to Chao, asking about Stickler's duties. Chao and the Labor Department have not responded to that request.
Roberts said media reports indicate MSHA employees regularly travel between their own offices in Arlington, Va. and Labor Department offices in Washington to meet with Stickler.
On Thursday, Roberts said, "If Mr. Stickler is involved in directing or developing policy at MSHA through this consulting role, then there is a serious problem. He has not been confirmed by the Senate and is not likely to be. He has no business being involved in critical decision-making at the agency."