By Mike Lillis
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) on Tuesday said newly proposed mine safety reforms — floated earlier in the day by some key Democrats — aren't focused enough on the problems they're intended to fix.
Instead, said Kline, the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, the Democrats have overreached, proposing "a much more expansive approach" than that needed to protect the nation's miners.
“Republicans," Kline said in an e-mail, "believe we need targeted steps to improve mine safety and prevent tragedies like the one that occurred at the Upper Big Branch mine in April of this year. That means improving the mine safety laws on the books and demanding stronger enforcement by the federal agency charged with protecting miners."
The Democrats' proposal, Kline added, "takes a much more expansive approach, reshaping workplace safety policies that have nothing to do with protecting miners working underground."
Hours earlier, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Education and Labor panel, had outlined a series of mine safety reforms in response to the Upper Big Branch disaster, which killed 29 miners in southern West Virginia three months ago.
The reforms, which are also being pushed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate labor panel, include proposals to hike penalties for safety violations; strengthen whistleblower protections; grant subpoena power to federal investigators; and empower regulators to shutter troubled mines more easily.