Bureau of Land Management nominee Stone-Manning gets party-line vote amid strong GOP opposition

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden's controversial nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management was met with expected opposition from all 10 Republicans in a Senate Committee on Energy vote Thursday. But the White House's pick could still advance to the full Senate after the party-line tie vote.

The GOP has been rallying against the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning, a longtime state and federal environmental policy adviser.

What makes her so controversial?

The fight over Stone-Manning highlights a broader partisan split over Biden's aggressive climate agenda, with big implications for oil and gas interests and environmental conservation.

Arguments against having her over the Bureau of Land Management also center around questions about her role in a tree-spiking incident in 1989.

The Bureau of Land Management oversees 247 million acres of federal land. The agency leases parcels for livestock grazing, issues permits for mining, manages lands used for recreation and employs wildland firefighters.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said he would move her nomination to the Senate floor, where another party-line vote could be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.

"The members of the Republican minority on the Committee are trying to turn this consensus-driven, well-respected nominee into another partisan flashpoint — dredging up a letter she forwarded while in graduate school and claiming it was evidence that she is 'an eco-terrorist,'" Schumer said on the Senate floor, prior to the committee vote.

Tracy Stone-Manning, nominated to direct the Bureau of Land Management, at her confirmation hearing on June 8, 2021.
Tracy Stone-Manning, nominated to direct the Bureau of Land Management, at her confirmation hearing on June 8, 2021.

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Why Republicans are fighting Stone-Manning's nomination

Republicans have accused Stone-Manning of giving "false and misleading" testimony about her involvement in a tree-spiking incident in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest in 1989, when she was a graduate student at the University of Montana.

Tree-spiking has been used by environmental activists to stop loggers. It involves hammering a hard material, such as metal, into the base of a tree, which can later break a saw blade and cause injury to the logger. The practice was made illegal in 1988.

Stone-Manning testified in 1993 that she had edited that she had edited, retyped and sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service, warning that trees had been spiked, on behalf of two environmental activists. She testified against them, in exchange for immunity. She maintains she had no part in the Idaho tree-spiking.

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Republicans say her responses to an official Senate committee questionnaire were "false and misleading" because she said she hadn't been the target of an investigation.

They point to a letter sent to the committee on July 14 from retired investigator Michael Merkley, who was involved in the original investigation. Merkley said Stone-Manning was aware she was being investigated for her involvement in the incident in 1989.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted the nomination on July 13, a day before a letter signed by all 10 Republican members of the Senate Energy Committee was sent to Biden calling for a withdrawal of Stone-Manning’s nomination.

Senate Energy Committee ranking member Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has also repeatedly called for the president to revoke her nomination.

"BLM’s work is too important to be led by someone who covered up for ecoterrorists, lied to the Senate and supports extremist views most Americans find reprehensible. The Senate must reject this nomination," Barrasso wrote in an opinion piece published in USA TODAY on July 19.

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Republicans have also questioned her relationship with a Montana developer involving a $60,000 loan she took from him while working as a staffer for then-Sen. Jon TesterD-Mont., two years after she publicly supported a subdivision the developer was seeking approval for, according to Forbes.

Democrats maintain support

Stone-Manning has been backed by Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the chair of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Tester, for whom Stone-Manning worked as an aide from 2007-2012, reiterated his support for her last week.

"I have worked with this woman very, very closely. She’s more solid than a lot of the people that are attacking her," Tester said, according to POLITICO.

The White House showed no sign of backing down as it reiterated support for Stone-Manning in a statement issued Friday.

Since January, the Biden administration has had two nominations withdrawn, those of Neera Tanden and Elizabeth Klein.

Tanden withdrew from the nomination process for director of Office of Management and Budget after senators said they wouldn't vote for her over a number of partisan tweets. Klein, who was never formally nominated, was withdrawn from deputy Interior secretary consideratoin because of her stance on ending fossil fuel use.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tree-spiking case adds controversy to Tracy Stone-Manning nomination