Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bush to Senate: Stick It To You

Latest from Washington is that the Bush Administration has re-nominated Richard Stickler to head MSHA. He has been a controversial choice since he was first named as the prospective appointee in September 2005.

Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) put a hold on the nomination after a public hearing. Also, it came out that despite the controversy, Stickler was quietly added to the Labor Department payroll as an independent contractor, which raised more hackles. At the recent formal signing of the new MINER Act, while showing respect, a Sago Mine family member actually spoke directly to the President about her disapproval of Stickler.

Senators who objected to the nomination obtained a pledge from Republicans in Congress that Mr. Stickler would not be installed in recess appointment. The Senate sent back his nomination, asking the White House to try again.

In line with this Administration's usual stance towards Congress, the White House has simply sent back the same nomination. Yup, a uniter, not a divider.

Labor Department sources say Stickler remains stationed at Department of Labor HQ across the Potomac, where he is receiving extensive briefings on MSHA issues.

The White House has done the same thing with the returned nomination of John R. Correll, who was deputy assistant secretary at MSHA from 2002 to 2005, and was picked to head the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation.

The Interior Department's news release praising the nomination this May said Correll "has served since 2002 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration."

Actually, it's my understanding that John Correll left MSHA's offices in 2005 for a special assistant post at Labor Department HQ, at the same time then-MSHA Chief of Staff Loretta M. Herrington transferred to the Office of Disability Employment Policy. Assistant Secretary Dave D. Lauriski had departed MSHA earlier in the year and his other deputy even earlier, so that kind of made it a clean sweep.

Or did Correll remain a secret Assistant Secretary? :)

Dave Lauriski hired Correll in 2002 into what was nominally a career position. He arrived just after the Quecreek rescue and had been out of the picture for a while by the time of the Sago explosion.

Government Executive has a good summary of the back-and-forth on these and other nominations.

Personal opinion: The "my way or the highway" stance sure isn't doing anything for miners. There are solid mine safety professionals and managers out there who also could be acceptable to most. Among other possibilities, long-term MSHA career professionals and managers have been retiring in substantial numbers for a few years now. Many worked under numerous Administrations of both parties without problems. MSHA should not be a political volleyball.

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