U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.

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OSHA's Rules, Budget Will Be Target

While the Nov. 2 elections left the U.S. House oversight and appropriations panels basically intact, Republicans in line to chair them, including Montana's Denny Rehberg, are likely to fight any new regulation.

The Republicans' winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 2 means they'll have majorities come January on the oversight committees and the appropriations subcommittees most important to OSHA, MSHA, and the Labor Department. The GOP surge did not wash away most of these panels' incumbents, but it ensures new chairmen with different priorities will take over the House panels.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., is in line to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies, which is currently chaired by retiring Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. Rehberg this year sponsored H.R. 5542 to cut all non-defense, homeland security, and veterans affairs spending by 5 percent in fiscal 2010 and 2011. He opposed the recently enacted health care reform law and opposed the stimulus funding. Rehberg is the top returning Republican on this subcommittee because its current ranking member, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, made an unsuccessful run for a Senate seat this year.

The comparable U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee is chaired by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who will retain the gavel because control of the U.S. Senate apparently has not switched, although three Senate races remained close or undecided as of Nov. 3. His Democrats will have a smaller majority on the panel and in the full Senate; the split now is 9-5 in favor of Democrats.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor CommitteeThe House Education and Labor Committee, the oversight panel for OSHA, is currently chaired by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who won re-election.

Miller has sponsored bills that require underground coal mines to have rescue chambers for emergencies and to train miners on them; the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; and a bill that would require OSHA to enact a combustible dust standard. He supported an OSHA reform bill -- H.R. 5663, the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 -- that would have exposed officers and directors of cited companies to potential criminal penalties and also would have significantly raised OSHA's civil penalties for violations.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., pushed for stronger OSHA oversight of Nevada OSHA.Democratic members of the committee who lost re-election bids Nov. 2 were Dina Titus of Nevada, who successfully pushed OSHA to exert more oversight of its state plans; Phil Hare of Illinois; and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire.

The other Democrats who sought re-election survived, including Judy Chu of California, who won a special election to gain her seat, and Lynn Woolsey of California, who currently chairs the commmittee's worker protections subcommittee.

Likely to take the committee chairman's seat in January 2011 is Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., currently its ranking member. Like Rehberg, he supports repealing the health reform law and cutting federal spending. He has focused on education reform.

Public Citizen's president, Robert Weissman, said at least $3.7 billion was spent on the 2010 midterm election campaigns.
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