I wrote yesterday about proposed amendments to the House Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations bill that would eliminate all funding for OSHA and reduce the salary of OSHA Assistant Secretary Doug Parker to $1.

What I missed yesterday were proposed amendments to also reduce the salaries of two top MSHA Offices to $1 — MSHA Assistant Secretary Doug Parker and MSHA Texas District Manager William O’Dell. The MSHA amendments were introduced by Louisiana Republican Congressman Clay Higgins who believes that an MSHA inspector has a vendetta against Morton Salt which has a salt quarry in Rep. Higgins’ district.

But it gets worse. An Amendment by Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry (R-Freedom Caucus) would stop MSHA from finalizing, implementing, or enforcing its proposed silica rule. For those who follow mine safety and health issues, silica causes a particularly virulent form of Black Lung disease called progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) which sickens and kills miners at a young age. Miners in their 30s and 40s are needing lung transplants after only 10 to 15 years of work in the mines. OSHA updated its silica standard in 2016, but miners are still allowed to be exposed to far higher levels of the deadly dust.  (More on the current MSHA rulemaking here, and the scourge of PMF here.)

But despite the fact that little to none of the madness will be signed into law, this circus does give everyone a good look at what would happen if the Republicans gain control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency in 2024.

Now, anyone can propose an amendment to any piece of legislation. But the only way House member can vote on amendments is if the House Rules Committee makes the amendment “in order.”  Given that there are 9 very conservative Republicans and 4 Democrats on the Rules Committee, there’s never much surprise about which way the votes are going to go.

Yesterday the Rules Committee met into the late evening to consider all 342 Amendments to the Labor-H bill. And guess what? All of the OSHA and MSHA amendments that stripped salaries and  stop the silica standard from moving forward were voted “in order.”

The Holman Rule: Reducing Salaries to $1

How, you may ask, can Congress reduce the salaries of government employees to $1? It’s done through something called the “Holman Rule,” a House Rule first passed in 1876 and for Indiana Representative William S. Holman. It allows Congress to cut the salaries of individual government employees and while generally used for high ranking officials, it has also been applied to many lower ranking government employees that Republican members take a dislike to.

It was little used until the Republican Congress resurrected it in 2017, then Democrats withdrew it in 2019 when they took back the majority, and it was again revived by Republicans in 2023, in a concession former Speaker Kevin McCarthy made to help his election to Sepaker.  It has become particularly popular this year, especially for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebert (R-Qanon). It has now been used 31 times this year, 25 times just since Speaker Mike Johnson was elected.

As of last month, Homan rules had been introduced in 36 separate amendments to appropriations bills in an attempt to reduce the salaries of select Biden Administration officials and federal employees to just $1. By next week, the number will have climbed higher.

While several of the Homan Rule votes have succeeded on the House floor, none have the slightest chance of surviving in the Senate or being signed by the President.

What Happens Next?

The full Labor-Education and Health and Human Services appropriations bill is supposed to come to the House floor this week. We’ll see. The House tried to bring several appropriations bills to the floor last week, but they were pulled at the last minute because they didn’t have enough Republican support to pass. Republicans can only lose 4 votes on the House floor, assuming Democrats stick together, so it doesn’t take more than a few unhappy Republican members to kill a bill.

And there are always lots of unhappy Republicans.

We’ll see what happens when/if the “Labor-H” bill comes to the House floor for a vote. It is currently scheduled to come to the floor today.

However the House ends up voting, none of the craziness has much of a chance getting through the Senate, much less signed by the President. So shutdown here we probably come.

But despite the fact that little to none of the madness will be signed into law, this circus does give everyone a good look at what would happen if the Republicans gain control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency in 2024.

4 thoughts on “House Rules Committee Approves Anti OSHA and MSHA Amendments”
  1. Thanks for keeping us informed. As the Palestinians say “just when you think it can’t get any worse, it get worser.”

  2. I used to find some value in some of your posts, but then got so tired of reading your constant barrage of hatred toward all things Republican that I didn’t look at your blog for quite a long time. I decided to give it another try today, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like anything has changed. Your posts drip with one-sided disgust for anything associated with the R’s. It’d be easier to take if it was at least somewhat tempered by your calling out of your own dear party for its multiple failures over the years.

    1. Darin: Thanks for giving me another chance. Sorry it seems that I’m one-sided and reflexively anti-Republican. But their actions speak for themselves. The fact is that Republicans these days consistently try to undermine OSHA — its budget, its standards and its policies. And Democrats consistently support OSHA (although that support could certainly be stronger in some cases.) How else could you possibly interpret proposed budget cuts, cutting the Assistant Secretary’s salary to $1 or completely defunding the agency? Do you see any Democrats doing things like this?

      I am not reflexively anti-Republican. Republicans were not always this consistently anti-OSHA. I recall many years where former Republican Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector, for example, would defend OSHA’s budget and programs like the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. Other Republicans were also supportive of OSHA’s efforts. In fact the Occupational Safety and Health Act was a bipartisan bill signed by a Republican President. I would have no problem supporting Republicans who support OSHA and unions and workplace safety. But as far as I can tell, there aren’t any any more. And I have never shied away from criticizing Democrats when they support actions that I consider to be harmful to worker safety (such as when several Dems voted to rescind OSHA’s ergonomics standard in 2001.)

      If you can point out any areas where any Republicans supportive of OSHA these days, I’d be happy to listen. Again, their actions speak for themselves. And there is no way those actions can be interpreted as anything by anti-OSHA and anti-workplace safety.

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