President Obama’s nominee to head OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, an epidemiologist and professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC, has moved a step closer to taking the reins at OSHA after his November 18th approval by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Dr. Michaels’ nomination now must be approved by the full Senate, a formality that is expected to happen any day now.

Despite calls from business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers for a full hearing that would have allowed senators to directly question Dr. Michaels, a recommendation shared by the AFL-CIO and other job safety organizations that argued the OSHA nomination is important enough to warrant a full airing of the nominee’s views, Dr. Michaels enjoyed a silent passage through the Senate committee. There was no testimony presented. A simple vote was taken to approve the nomination. Two Republican Senators voted no.

According to OMB Watch, an advocacy group, “After approving the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act bill, several senators moved hastily toward the committee room doorways, but Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) reminded them that business remained on the table. (It was about 11:00 am, so many senators had been awake for several hours and probably needed to get to lunch.)

“The committee then approved by voice vote the nomination of David Michaels. Committee Republicans Tom Coburn (OK) and Richard Burr (NC) requested they be recorded as ‘no’ votes.

Stated OMB Watch: “Bypassing the hearing was a mistake. OSHA is a major regulatory agency, and the leaders of such agencies should, as a rule of thumb, go before the Senate committee of jurisdiction to explain their views and qualifications. A hearing also would have provided an opportunity for Harkin and others to voice their support for Michaels on the record, and to explain exactly why he is well-qualified to lead OSHA. Michaels has been criticized, unfairly in our opinion, by some of those who fear he would take a proactive role in writing and enforcing protections for workers.”