Recess appointment possible for mine safety nominee

West Virginia senator has placed a hold on the nomination because of concerns over nominee's safety record.

President Bush might grant a recess appointment to Richard Stickler to head the Mine Safety Health Administration after the Senate last week declined to act on his nomination for the second time in two months, a White House spokeswoman said Monday.

The recess appointment would last until Congress adjourns early next year. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has had a hold on Stickler's nomination because of concerns about his safety record. His nomination was automatically sent back to the White House when the Senate did not act on it before adjourning early Saturday.

Bush also could send his nomination back to the Senate for a third time during the lame-duck session or nominate someone else. A spokesman for Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said Stickler is not likely to become the head of MSHA outside of a recess appointment.

"That would be a fair assessment," the spokesman said. "We've got an impasse on this particular nominee and the White House is going to have to make a decision as to what they prefer to do." Enzi supports Stickler because of his "significant experience in the industry," the spokesman added.

Stickler's nomination is opposed by the United Mine Workers union, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va. David Dye has been acting head of MSHA for about two years, during which there have been several high-profile mining accidents.

A UMW spokesman said that while the union is not pleased with Dye's oversight: "Stickler's not the right guy for the job. That's not any commentary on Dye at all." He declined to say whether Dye or Stickler would be better to lead MSHA. "I'm not going to get into that at all," he said.

Stickler, who worked 30 years for Beth Energy Mines Inc., before he was appointed to run Pennsylvania's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety in 1997, was first nominated for the federal job nearly a year ago.

In June, Republicans scrapped a vote on his nomination after it became clear he did not have enough support to win Senate approval. His nomination was then sent back to the White House for the first time when the Senate did not act on it before the August recess.

NEXT STORY: Get on the GEHA Train