Saturday, September 30, 2006

Senate Returns Stickler To White House For Second Time

Like a tennis game from Hell, the US Senate today lobbed mine safety nominee Richard Stickler back over the White House fence for the second time.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was forced to cancel a vote on Stickler's confirmation in June due the lack of Senate support for Stickler's nomination. Last month, in an unprecedented action, the Senate returned Stickler's nomination to the White House before it went on break. But refusing to take the hint, the President renominated Sticker at the beginning of September. The Senate was obviously not amused and back he goes. Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd have led the opposition to Stickler, citing his industry background and the lack of commitment to MSHA reform that he displayed at his confirmation hearing.

Byrd and Kennedy made statements today:
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said, “Last month, the Senate took a stand for mine safety by sending back to the White House an unacceptable nomination to lead MSHA, and we are as resolute in our stand today.

“We’re again sending a message to the administration that America’s miners deserve better, and we hope that this time it will listen.”

Byrd criticized the White House for nominating a man with a “weak safety record” and for “playing political games with mine safety.
Bush now has three choices. He can renominate Stickler yet again, make a recess appointment while Congress is on vacation, or show that he's taking mine safety seriously and nominate someone who's actually qualified for the job.

Kennedy called for a new nominee:
“We are in the midst of a mine safety crisis — 58 miners have already died this year, more than any year since 2002.

“At this critical time, miners and their families need a strong leader at MSHA. Mr. Stickler does not have the record or the vision to meet this challenge. The president should send the Senate a new nominee.”
MSHA has been operating without a permanent Assistant Secretary for almost two years since David Lauriski resigned in November 2004. Thirty-eight coal miners and 20 metal/non-metal miners have died in the workplace this year which began with the tragic January 2 Sago Mine disaster in which 12 coal miners died.