The Democratic-controlled Senate has so far refused to approve his nomination. Democratic senators have said Stickler spent too many years as a coal-mining executive and failed to demonstrate that safety is his priority. The Senate could limit to 210 days the time Stickler can serve as acting head of the agency.
Stickler, the government's public face during the Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Utah, took over the $340 million agency in late 2006 as a result of an appointment Bush made while Congress was out of session.
He inherited an understaffed agency that was facing new mandates following the coal industry's deadliest year in more than a decade. Forty-seven coal miners died on the job in 2006, the year he took over the agency.
''MSHA's mission is to help ensure that each and every miner comes home safe after each and every shift, and with Richard's continued leadership and the diligence of everyone at MSHA, miner safety will continue to advance," Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said in a message to MSHA employees.