Senate Committee Rubberstamps Left-Wing Ideologue to Head Powerful OSHA Agency Despite His Anti-Gun and Pro-Junk-Science Views

David Michaels, a left-wing ideologue who supports junk science and seeks to restrict gun possession, has been approved by the Senate Health Committee to head the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Only two committee members, both Republicans, voted against Michaels.

The vote occurred with no discussion, and no hearing was even held on his nomination, although hearings have consistently been held on OSHA nominees in the past, even for far less controversial picks.

Lawyer and Second Amendment expert, David Kopel explains how Michaels wants to ban guns in and near workplaces, and could use his position at OSHA to do so, if the political climate shifts in favor of gun control. (Some businessmen in high-crime areas possess guns to protect themselves against armed robbers, and even strict local gun-control laws have generally contained exceptions to allow such businesses to defend themselves.)

The fact that such bans might undermine, rather than enhance, workplace safety would not deter Michaels, who would be happy to rely on junk science.   Michaels wants to reverse the Supreme Court’s Daubert decision limiting the use of junk science.

As the Washington Times noted, “Mr. Michaels also is an anti-gun zealot who has described ‘gun violence’ as an issue of ‘public health’ that ‘invariably demands more and stronger regulation, not less.’ As Walter Olson of the Manhattan Institute explained, by way of warning, on Aug. 15: ‘That’s by no means irrelevant to the agenda of an agency like OSHA, because once you start viewing private gun ownership as a public health menace, it begins to seem logical to use the powers of government to urge or even require employers to forbid workers from possessing guns on company premises, up to and including parking lots, ostensibly for the protection of co-workers. In addition, OSHA has authority to regulate the working conditions of various job categories associated with firearms use (security guards, hunting guides, etc.) and could in that capacity do much to bring grief to Second Amendment values.'”

As I noted in a New York Times story, Michaels’ appointment could “dramatically alter OSHA’s approach to ensuring workplace safety.” Michaels has been called “one the nation’s foremost proponents of allowing junk science to be used in jackpot-justice lawsuits.”

Many business groups raised concerns about his nomination and extreme views.

Iain Murray notes that Michaels seeks to ban useful products from the workplace based on imaginary risks. One newspaper calls Michaels “virulently anti-business.”

The lopsided committee vote in favor of Michaels is probably explained by log-rolling.  As The Wall Street Journal has noted, some Republican committee members likely voted along with their Democratic colleagues to approve Michaels, in exchange for Obama’s recent nomination of an aide to the ranking Republican committee member, to sit on the board of an independent agency that is supposed to be bipartisan (the NLRB), but which Obama could conceivably have made even more partisan and liberal than it is by nominating a liberal RINO rather than a GOP aide to that post (that might have invited a filibuster, but there are only 40 Republican Senators, and it takes 41 votes to successfully filibuster a nomination).