One hundred and thirty one members of the House Republican caucus voted on Nov. 14 to completely defund the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency tasked with keeping Americans safe at work. Illinois Republican Rep. Mary Miller, the author of the proposal, framed it as necessary to “rein in OSHA” and punish the agency because, she said on Facebook, “they tried to implement Joe Biden’s illegal and unconstitutional COVID vaccine mandate.”
Miller’s proposed amendment to a GOP appropriations bill was defeated 131-300, with all 212 Democrats present and 88 Republicans voting no.
Wisconsin Republican Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Tom Tiffany, and Derrick Van Orden all voted to fully defund OSHA.
OSHA was created in 1971 under Republican President Richard Nixon to prevent deaths, injuries, and illnesses caused by unsafe working conditions. The agency has implemented regulations that have helped dramatically improve job safety. According to its website, the average number of worker deaths in the United States dropped from 38 a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2020. Worker injuries and illnesses dropped from 10.9 incidents for every 100 workers to just 2.7 incidents over that same time frame.
In November 2021, the Biden administration announced that OSHA would require employees in crowded workplaces to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or test weekly for the virus. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in January 2022 that the order exceeded OSHA’s authority.
Nearly two years later, Miller remains angry. “The Supreme Court had to stop OSHA from forcing 84 million Americans to get the shot!” she posted on Facebook. “Their budget and power must be STRIPPED!”
On the House floor, Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro strongly opposed the amendment, noting OSHA’s positive impact since its inception. “Make no mistake. By eliminating all funding for OSHA, this amendment results in an unconscionable spike in workplace injury, illness, and death,” she said. “This says we don’t care what kind of conditions workers are working in and that we ought to go back to the Industrial Revolution. And it should be clear, again, a reckless amendment.”
Among those voting for Miller’s amendment were House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), Minority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) did not vote; House speakers typically vote only when the margin is close.