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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia


January 5, 2017
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would exempt from coverage under the REINS Act any rule which pertains to workplace health and safety made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, or the Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, that is necessary to prevent or reduce the incidence of traumatic injury, cancer or irreversible lung disease.

   I am offering the amendment because we should not be creating obstacles to the protection of life and limb. We should be concerned about repealing such workplace rules. Actually, this concern is not theoretical. There was a report from the chairman of the Freedom Caucus that actually calls for the repeal of multiple safety and health rules.

   One OSHA rule, for example, will reduce slip, trip, and fall hazards, which are actually a leading cause of worker deaths and lost workday injuries. We found that this rule had not been updated since 1971, and OSHA has calculated that over 10 years the rule will prevent nearly 300 worker deaths and more than 58,000 lost-time injuries. The net benefit, cash benefit, of the rule is projected to be over $3 billion over 10 years.

   Another rule at risk is the modernization of OSHA's beryllium exposure limit, a 70-year-old standard that was obsolete even before it was issued. Workers who inhaled beryllium can develop debilitating, incurable, and frequently fatal illnesses. One known as chronic beryllium disease also increased lung cancer.

   In the 1940s, workers at the Atomic Energy Commission plants were contracting acute beryllium poisoning. To deal with the problem, two scientists agreed to set the exposure limit at 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air while sitting in the back of a taxicab on their way to a meeting. This discredited standard is often called the taxicab standard because there was no data to support it, and there is now significant scientific evidence that show that it has failed to protect workers.

   One cost of keeping the so-called taxicab standard is estimated at the loss of nearly 100 lives a year. So we need to make sure that this rule is updated. It is in final stages after 18 years of development. The finalized rule is expected to come out soon. Other rules involve mine safety and other safety and health concerns.

   The REINS Act would make it harder to protect workers' health and safety. The bill would create more bureaucracy by requiring that any major rule receive bicameral resolution of support within 70 legislative days prior to the rule taking effect.

   This bill even provides for a reach back to consider rules issued last spring. Under this bill, a single House of Congress could block a rule. That raises significant constitutional concerns. By allowing a one-House veto, the bill violates the presentment clause of the Constitution of the United States.

   My amendment ensures essential workplace safety protections are not jeopardized by this flawed legislation.

   Mr. Chairman, I urge a ``yes'' vote on my amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.