The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee yesterday killed President Reagan's controversial nomination of Texas lawyer Robert E. Rader Jr. to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on an 8-to-8 vote.
The nomination died when Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) joined the committee's seven Democrats in opposing Rader, primarily because of his legal advice urging corporate clients to resist certain work place inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The three-member review commission serves as a court of appeals for OSHA citations, often reducing or vacating fines. Commission rulings are significant in shaping how the nation's health and safety laws are enforced and interpreted on the job.
Sens. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) led the attack on Rader yesterday, describing him as unfit to serve because he allegedly had shown bias against rigorous enforcement of OSHA laws.
"I believe this nomination should have been withdrawn a long time ago," Metzenbaum said. He said Rader "has demonstrated that he can't be fair-minded and unbiased." Approving Rader for a six-year term could help create a commission whose rulings "could completely destroy OSHA," Metzenbaum warned.
Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) said he decided to vote against Rader after reviewing 11 commission cases in which Rader participated being given a recess appointee last August. Simon said he thought that the cases showed bias in favor of employers at the expense of workers.
Weicker said, through a spokesman, "I don't think the resume of his words and deeds suits him for that particular position." Weicker voted with the Democrats against recommending the nomination to the full Senate and voted against a move by Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) to report the nomination to the Senate without a recommendation.
Hatch said following the vote that he was disappointed with Rader's defeat because he was a qualified candidate who had pledged to support work place safety. "But his qualifications were not judged today, his politics were," Hatch said.
The primary opposition to Rader came from organized labor, based on his legal advice and two 1981 Baylor Law Review articles, in which Rader advised employers to deny OSHA inspectors access to their facilities unless they had a search warrant. He also said companies should refuse access even when OSHA obtains a warrant if the company has not had a chance to contest the search warrant application in court. The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that employers have the right to demand search warrants.
Several of Rader's clients, prior to his nomination last fall, were cited for contempt of court for barring OSHA inspectors from their factories. Rader also was a supporter of a short-lived "Stop OSHA" movement founded by former representative George V. Hansen (R-Idaho) after OSHA was created in 1971.