Senate will hold moment of silence for victims of deadly mine explosion

The Senate will break at 3:30 pm to hold a moment of silence for the victims of the deadliest mine disaster in decades that occurred in West Virginia last week.

Twenty-nine workers at the Upper Big Branch mine were found dead after a explosion ripped through the facility. Congress is investigating the incident, along with federal agencies, in the wake of accusations that the mine had safety issues.

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Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the Senate floor Monday afternoon to announce the moment of silence shortly after the upper chamber reconvened after a two-week Easter recess.

Reid shared a story about his father, who was a miner, saying that he was seriously injured in an explosion when the senator was a young child. 

Reid said his father was "hurt, in a state of shock" after the explosion, which was caused by a faulty fuse, blew out his light and knocked the soles off of his shoes. His father was able to escape the mine before the additional charges went off.

"I sympathize greatly with the people of West Virginia for their loss," he said.

The Nevada Democrat hails from the town of Searchlight, which was known for its gold mining and exploration of other minerals.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), like Reid, offered condolences to the people of West Virginia. Kentucky is also a major coal producing state.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to our neighbors in West Virginia as they try and recover from the latest tragedy in what is obviously a very dangerous profession," he said on the Senate floor.

Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) also addressed the mining tragedy and said stronger mine safety oversight is needed. "It clearly calls for a much more aggressive approach by our federal government,” he said. “We can do better."

Reid, McConnell and Durbin also offered condolences for the people of Poland, who lost their president and other top government officials in a plane crash in Russia this weekend. 

Ben Geman contributed to this post