Senate Dems hold out for bipartisan mine safety bill

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is holding out on introducing a mine safety bill in order to rally the support of Republicans on the panel, Harkin's office said this week.

Democrats are eyeing a number of mine safety reforms in the wake of the Upper Big Branch disaster, which killed 29 miners in southern West Virginia in April. Earlier in the week, Harkin joined Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, in floating a broad outline of those changes. But Republicans in both chambers criticized the proposals.

Rep. John Kline (Minn.), senior Republican on the House Labor panel, said the reforms overreach, "reshaping workplace safety policies that have nothing to do with protecting miners working underground." And Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the ranking member of the HELP Committee, said he was "disappointed that the Democrats have chosen to move forward in partisan fashion."

The criticism didn't deter Miller, who introduced his mine safety bill Thursday. But Harkin's office said the Iowa Democrat wants to bring Republicans on board first.

"We want a bipartisan bill," a Harkin spokeswoman said.