HELP Committee to Move on OSHA Nominee Without Hearing

By November 12, 2009Briefly Legal, Regulations

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has scheduled an executive session Wednesday, Nov. 18, to vote on the nomination of David Michaels to become Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, i.e., OSHA administrator. No hearing, no questioning, just a vote.

Many business groups and others have sought a confirmation hearing on Michaels to explore his views on key issues. For example, Michaels has headed the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP), created with money the trial lawyers funneled to it from the silicone breast implant settlement. SKAPP’s views closely align with those of the plaintiffs’ bar, especially in Michaels’ attack against the Daubert v.Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals that put limits on the introduction of “junk science” into civil suits. (See this 2003 discussion at Overlawyered.com.) Michael’s book, Doubt is Their Product, exudes a world view in which business is always malign and intellectually corrupt.

Defenders of Second Amendment rights have also been alarmed at Michaels’ view of guns as a workplace safety issue warranting strict regulation. See Dave Kopel, “How President Obama’s latest anti-gun appointee—proposed OSHA Director David Michaels—could place sweeping restrictions on your Right to Keep and Bear Arms.”

The National Association of Manufacturers is a member of the Coalition for Workplace Safety, which on October 8 sent a letter to the HELP Committee asking for a hearing. Excerpt:

Because workplace safety is everyone’s concern and we are committed to working with OSHA to meet our shared goal of improving safety in the workplace, we believe a hearing is warranted to thoroughly explore Professor Michael’s views on key areas of OSHA operations, the direction the agency will take, and how his professional career might influence the decisions he would make in this position.

The letter notes that nominees to head OSHA have traditionally appeared before the committee for a confirmation hearing. Indeed, President Bush’s nominee, Ed Foulke, testified in a hearing on January 31, 2006.

It’s been a week since Chairman Tom Harkin’s press secretary offered this excuse for not scheduling a hearing: “If we had a hearing on every single nominee, nothing would ever get done.” We await a more substantive explanation the committee abandoning accountability, but have our doubts one will be forthcoming.

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