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On December 8, the House voted down the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act, designed to improve worker safety conditions for miners. Because the bill was considered under suspension of House rules, it needed votes from two-thirds of the House lawmakers to pass. It was rejected by a 214-193 vote, with 213 Democratic votes and one Republican vote in favor, and 166 Republican votes and 27 Democratic votes in opposition.
Introduced in the House on December 3, the legislation was intended to address safety concerns in light of recent mining accidents, particular the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch Mine explosion April 5 that left 29 miners dead. The bill would have authorized the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration to revoke an employer’s mining engineering plan if it creates safety hazards and levy fines for serious violations. It also increased MSHA’s authority by enabling it to seek a court order to close an unsafe mine, to subpoena documents and testimony, and to require additional training for miners in unsafe mines. In addition, it would have protected miners who inform authorities of violations from retaliation by operators and ensured that miners do not lose pay while mines are closed for safety reasons.