By Mike Lillis
The House Education and Labor Committee will mark up its mine safety bill next Wednesday, the panel announced this week.
The move is indication that lower-chamber Democrats hope to act quickly on the legislation, perhaps with the intention of passing the bill through the House before lawmakers leave town at the end of July for a month-long recess.
Sponsored by Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), the proposal would expand whistleblower protections to miners, empower federal regulators to close unsafe mines more easily and extend worker protections to nearly all workplaces nationwide.
Republican leaders have opposed the measure, arguing in particular that the broad expansion of workplace protections is unrelated to mine safety, and therefore has no business in the bill.
The legislation came as a response to an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia, which killed 29 miners in April.
Senate Democrats are weighing similar reforms. But Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Senate labor panel, says he’s holding out in hopes of crafting a bipartisan bill.