Nominees for safety agencies OSHA and FMSHRC sent back to the Senate. Will they pass (and when)?

The White House has re-nominated several safety agency nominees, whose nominations expired when the last Congress adjourned. These include Scott Mugno, nominated to serve as OSHA’s leader, and three nominees to be judges on the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC).

On January 16, President Trump sent a slate of nominees to the Senate, including Mugno and proposed FMSHRC Commissioners Marco Rajkovich, Bill Althen, and Art Traynor. Mugno and Rajkovich originally had been approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The other two Commission nominees never got that far.

The Commission nominees may have languished simply because the Senate was focused on other matters and had a backlog of hundreds of nominations to consider. However, Mr. Mugno’s nomination reportedly stalled – along with other Department of Labor nominees – due to a conflict between the political parties over approving two Democratic appointees to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), respectively. At various times, including last month, there were rumors of potential package-deal compromises, but none ultimately succeeded.

Why does it matter?

All of these vacancies have consequences for companies regulated by OSHA and MSHA. Many have observed that without a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary to lead it, OSHA’s approach and direction have not changed as much as they expected – or as quickly as they expected – since President Trump took office.

Likewise, with three of five seats vacant, the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission has no quorum. It can decide to take a case for future consideration, but it can’t actually rule on the case. If the appointments are delayed too long, a backlog of appeals could develop, lengthening a process that already takes several months.

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