The Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education and Pensions’ (HELP) scheduled vote yesterday on the nomination of Dr. David Michaels to head up OSHA was postponed on Tuesday night.
Michaels’ nomination is not seen as being in any serious trouble.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures had pressed the committee to hold a full hearing on Michaels; instead the OSHA nominee answered questions from committee member Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) in writing, and that exchange of information was one reason given by the committee for the delayed vote.
Yesterday’s executive session of the committee, in which White House nominees are voted on without any verbal questions and answers, was packed with ten other nominees, including three slated for appointments on the National Labor Relations Board. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has an express interest in seeing the NLRB has “strong leadership at the Board to guide the agency in its core mission,” he wrote in a statement issued before the session. Harkin’s concern that the NLRB “doesn’t seem to be doing all it can
to inform workers of their rights, or to appropriately punish repeat violators of our labor laws” could be another factor that delayed the Michaels vote.
“I am also concerned about the excessive delays at the Board – justice delayed is justice denied, and all too often these delays mean there is no real penalty for violating workers’ rights. It will be a serious challenge to restore the core mission of this agency, but I think today’s nominees are up to the task,” wrote Harkin.
At press time, no date had been set by the committee to vote on Michaels’ nomination. It’s expected the committee will approve his nomination along a party-line vote in which Democrats hold the majority, and send it to the full Senate for a final vote, where his confirmation is again expected to be approved due to the Democratic majority.
Prior to yesterday’s session, the last HELP executive session to vote on nominees cleared for action took place on October 7, when the committee approved the nominations of M. Patricia Smith to be solicitor of the Labor Department, and Joe Main to be assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health (MSHA chief).
OSHA has not suffered from the delay in putting Michaels in the top slot at the agency. Under the direction of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and acting OSHA head Jordan Barab, the agency has been very active since the summer. Just this week OSHA announced it will write a standard for combustible dust hazards, issued a letter of interpretation requiring road and highway construction workers to wear high-visibility clothing, and reported on serious shortcomings in the Nevada state OSHA program, prompting federal OSHA to undertake a forthcoming review of all state plan OSHA programs.