Saturday, September 30, 2006

Senate rejects mining safety nominee again

Senate rejects mining safety nominee again

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the second time in two months, the U.S. Senate rejected President George W. Bush's nominee to head the federal mine safety agency, former energy executive Richard Stickler, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd said on Friday.

"The fact that the nomination has twice failed to receive Senate confirmation reflects a strong lack of confidence in the president's choice for this critical position. By continuing to insist on a nominee with a weak safety record, the White House is playing political games with mine safety," Byrd said in a statement.

Byrd originally put a hold on Stickler's nomination for three months. When Congress adjourned for its August recess, the nomination was automatically rejected.

Bush then renominated Stickler at the beginning of September. Once again, the nomination will be sent back to Bush when Congress ends its current session this week.

Bush can nominate Stickler yet again or choose a new candidate. He can also appoint someone to the post while Congress is in recess, a choice he made when appointed John Bolton the ambassador to the United Nations.

A spokeswoman from Byrd's office said that under Senate rules, the Senate could also meet during its break in a special session to appoint him, but that was unlikely.

Stickler, who currently has a six-month contract to work as an adviser to the Department of Labor, which oversees the Mine Safety and Health Agency, oversaw Pennsylvania's mine safety for six years. He also worked for Massey Energy and the former Bethlehem Steel.

The position has been vacant for about two years, with David Dye acting as MSHA's temporary head.