Advance Notice: Briefs

Manchin says he’ll back BLM nomination, as committee vote is set

By: - July 20, 2021 6:24 am

The Alabama Hills, which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, lie before the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California | Susan J. Demas

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote Thursday on the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management, with Chair Joe Manchin III planning to vote to approve her — a major step forward for her confirmation after weeks of aggressive Republican opposition.

Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and ranking Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming on Monday announced the committee meeting. Following the scheduling announcement, Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon said in an email the chair will vote in favor of the nomination.

With all committee Republicans on the record against her nomination, Stone-Manning, of Montana, will almost certainly fail to receive the panel’s approval.

But her nomination still could move to a Senate floor vote if all Democrats vote in favor and the full Senate then approves a procedural measure to bring the nomination to the floor. The energy panel, like the Senate, is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Under a power-sharing agreement Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell reached earlier this year, a simple majority of the full Senate can vote to advance nominees who receive a tie committee vote.

Vice President Kamala Harris would break a tie in the full Senate.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden “stands by” Stone-Manning and looks forward to her confirmation — though that outcome is still not certain.

As with many Senate matters this year, Manchin’s position is crucial. Weeks of escalating criticism from Republican senators, largely related to Stone-Manning’s connection to a 1989 tree-spiking incident, eroded the potential for Republican support.

Stone-Manning developed a reputation over years of work for Montana Democrats and in environmental nonprofits as a pragmatic voice and consensus builder. She emphasized that record in a committee hearing last month.

But days later, her chances took a hit when the conservative Daily Caller website published an account of Stone-Manning’s ties to a radical environmental group’s scheme to plant spikes into trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest in order to keep them from being logged.

Stone-Manning mailed a threatening letter to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of the group, but has denied further involvement and later testified against two men who were convicted of executing the scheme.

Barrasso and other Republicans have accused her of lying about the extent of her involvement and on a Senate questionnaire when she said she’d never been investigated for a federal crime.e said she’d never been investigated for a federal crime.

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.