Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Food Fight, Mark Two?

Of course the big news is that new federal mine safety legislation unanimously passed the Senate last week. More on that later, I hope.

But this one just can't go un-noted: As state investigators move ahead with the underground investigation at the Kentucky Darby mine where an explosion killed five, MSHA has declined to join them, AP reports.

The feds reportedly say it isn't safe; the state says it is. Never in the history of mine safety and health that I am aware has there been a rift like this one. Adding to the confusion: MSHA is the the Department of Labor. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao is married to Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Here's what Al Cross of the Courier-journal had to say last fall about McConnell/(Republican Ky. governor Ernie) Fletcher relations:

"Fletcher's base wasn't very deep anyway, and it was largely fostered by McConnell's quiet support for him in the 2003 primary. After the primary, when I was still this newspaper's political reporter, McConnell went out of his way to show me the little hideaway office in the U.S. Capitol where he pushed Fletcher to run.

At Fletcher's inauguration, McConnell beamed like a proud papa, but for the last several weeks, he has acted like the defendant in a political paternity suit."

When MSHA had an internal dispute that got aired in the press early in Chao's tenure about the conduct of an accident investigation, Chao called it a "food fight." Is it too much of a reach to wonder what they're calling this?

Meanwhile, Senator Byrd reportedly is keeping his "hold" on the nomination of Richard Stickler to head MSHA, the Courier-Journal reports. And the Bush adinistration isn't budging.


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