Sen. Manchin won’t vote for Trump’s mine safety nominee

Sen. Manchin won’t vote for Trump’s mine safety nominee
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Trump vows to 'always uphold the Second Amendment' amid ongoing talks on gun laws MORE (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday said he plans to vote against confirming President Trump’s nominee to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

In his statement, Manchin recalled the numerous miner deaths in West Virginia, including 12 so far this year.

Trump tapped David Zatezalo for the job earlier this month. Zatezalo is a retired former executive of Rhino Resources, which had frequent run-ins with MSHA for alleged safety violations during his tenure.

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“While I appreciate Mr. Zatezalo’s willingness to serve, I cannot support his confirmation to lead MSHA,” Manchin said in his statement.

“After reviewing his qualifications and record of safety during his time in the coal industry, I am not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”

Manchin has been more supportive of Trump’s policies and executive branch nominees than almost any other Democrat, having voted to confirm officials like Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEnvironmentalists renew bid to overturn EPA policy barring scientists from advisory panels Six states sue EPA over pesticide tied to brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules MORE and others that got almost no support outside of the GOP.

Although Manchin supported Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Progressive Democrats' turnout plans simply don't add up MORE in last year’s election, Trump won West Virginia by the highest margin of any state. Manchin is running for reelection next year in what is expected to be one of the toughest Senate races of the election cycle.

Nonetheless, he said it is important to stand up to Zatezalo.

“I have comforted too many families who have lost loved ones serving our nation in the mines,” said Manchin, the Mountain State’s former governor. “Strong leadership at the Mine Safety & Health Administration is non-negotiable.”

If the Senate were to vote on Zatezalo along party lines, he would get 52 votes, just one more than necessary.

Under Zatezalo’s leadership, Rhino received two rare “pattern of violations” letters from MSHA at the same mine, a fine and citation for the death of a miner and a court injunction for allegedly giving workers advanced notice about inspections.

Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-R.I.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines Pennsylvania school district turns down local businessman's offer to pay off student lunch debts MORE (D-Pa.) sent MSHA a letter Tuesday seeking details about Rhino’s record under Zatezalo.