After summer optimism gave way to an autumn impasse, Senate observers think there’s little chance of mine safety legislation passing during the lame duck session. Sponsored by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the bill would increase criminal penalties for mine operators who tamper with safety equipment, give whistle-blower protection to non-union miners, require swift remedy of hazardous conditions and expand the power for federal mine safety investigators to issue subpoenas.

Arguing that immediate action is necessary to avert disasters such as the explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in April, Rockefeller and interim West Virginia Sen. Carte Goodwin (D) tried to bring the mine safety bill to the Senate floor on Sept. 28 to set a “benchmark” for what mine safety legislation should include. Republicans, however, blocked the effort according to "The Hill," a Capitol Hill online newspaper.

“I was there with the families as we hoped and prayed for any sign that their loved ones would make it out,” Rockefeller said. “It is something that no family should have to go through.”

Rockefeller told reporters last month that Republican staff balked at all attempts to reach compromise, and called the possibility of the bill being considered during the lame-duck session “remote.”