The White House announced yesterday that it was renominating Richard Stickler to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Last month, in an unprecedented action, the Senate had returned Stickler's nomination to the White House before it went on break.
Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had led the opposition to Stickler, citing his industry background and the lack of commitment to MSHA reform that he displayed at his confirmation hearing. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was forced to cancel a vote on Stickler's confirmation in June due the lack of Senate support. It had been assumed that Bush had gotten the message, but apparently not.
According to Kennedy,
America's miners and their families deserve strong action to reverse the current mine safety crisis. It's appalling that the President would renominate Richard Stickler for this critical mine safety position in the face of intense opposition from miners and their families. Throughout his career, Mr. Stickler has focused on profits and production, not worker safety. The President should have used the recess to send the Senate a nominee who will give America's miners the protection they deserve.The White House, not accustomed to the Senate taking its "advise and consent" role seriously, has apparently decided not to switch drowning horses in mid-stream:
Alex Conant, a White House spokesman, said Stickler, who is from West Virginia, was a "well-qualified nominee committed to improving safety in America's mines and we look forward to the Senate confirming him."Yeah, well I wouldn't hold my breath, Alex. With Republican hold on the Senate expected to weaken (or disappear) after November's election, Stickler's prospects aren't going to be getting any brighter.
So, what's going on? A recess appointment? A permanent role as "acting" Assistant Secretary? Who knows?