A congressional critic of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says OSHA prepared a "pathetic little speech" attacking him and tried in vain to get a House member to deliver it.
Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) inserted the attack against him in- to yesterday's Congressional Record.
In a tongue-in-cheek introduction, Obey said, "Productivity at the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA's parent agency has apparently grown so rapidly in recent years that they are now volunteering their services outside the executive branch and are engaging in congressional speech-writing.
"Regrettably, they seem to be having difficulty finding members to give their speeches."
The proposed speech begins, "Mr. Speaker: We all know that this is election season, but a statement in the Congressional Record of July 31 by my distinguished colleague from Wisconsin, Mr. Obey, exceeds the acceptable boundaries for political rhetoric."
At its end, the statement says, "Granted, 'tis the season for exaggeration and innuendo, but the implication in the statement of the gentleman from Wisconsin that OSHA is subverting the law goes too far. Nothing could be further from the truth. OSHA, under President Reagan, has helped bring the work-place injury rate down while removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on our nation's businesses."
Ruth Knight, chief of OSHA's legislative affairs division, who said she reviewed, but did not write, the OSHA statement, said it was "very usual" for the agency to prepare rebuttals to criticism "to set the record straight."
"Primarily the idea was to get together a rebuttal and it would be useful in responding to press inquiries," Knight said. "Then someone had the idea we could try this introduction in Congress as well, that we could try writing remarks someone would put in the record for us."
But she said OSHA decision-makers "didn't think it was a good idea and dropped it. That's my understanding. I didn't like the rhetoric in it. I thought it was too political and personal. I would have preferred something just matter-of-fact, without emotion."