(H.R. 6495) Final passage of mine safety legislation that would have required additional inspections of mines, given federal regulators the authority to seek court orders to close mines deemed to be dangerous, and offered legal protection to mine employees who expose unsafe working conditions
This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and pass legislation that would have required additional inspections of mines, given federal regulators the authority to seek court orders to close mines deemed to be dangerous, and offered legal protection (known as “whistleblower protection”) to mine employees who expose unsafe working conditions. Whistleblower protections shield employees from employer retaliation when they expose such conditions.
Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) urged support for the bill: “…The House today considers urgently needed legislation to address life-threatening gaps in our nation's mine safety laws. Despite progress made over several decades in mine safety, more than 600 miners have been killed on the job in the last 10 years….After every major tragedy, promises are made by public officials to miners and their families--to the survivors--that timely action will be taken to make sure that this thing never happens again….The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act is our chance to finally make a downpayment on that promise.” (The bill’s supporters named the legislation after the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), who represented West Virginia mining communities for more than half a century in the U.S. Senate.)
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) urged opposition to the bill, arguing that the Democratic-backed bill was a rushed and irresponsible response to a problem they did not fully understand how to solve: “I believe steps can be taken by federal and state regulators, mine operators, and miners, themselves, to reduce the dangers inherent for those who mine for natural resources that power our nation. That is why it is with deep regret that I oppose the legislation before us today. Once again, well-intended reforms addressing a vital issue are being rushed through a flawed process that results in a deeply flawed bill. This is not the way to govern….it [the bill] seeks to create a solution to a problem we do not fully understand.”
The vote on the bill was 214-193. 213 Democrats – including a majority of progressives -- and 1 Republican voted “yea.” 166 Republicans and 27 Democrats voted “nay.” While a majority of members voted in favor of this mine safety bill, a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage under suspension of the rules. Since the bill did not receive the required two-thirds majority, the measure failed. As a result, the House rejected legislation that would have required additional inspections of mines, given federal regulators the authority to seek court orders to close mines deemed to be dangerous, and offered legal protection to mine employees who expose unsafe working conditions.” Democratic leaders, however, remained free to bring the bill up again under a different process requiring only a simple majority vote for passage.