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U.S. Senate panel schedules vote on Stone-Manning to head public lands agency

By: - July 19, 2021 5:36 pm

Tracy Stone-Manning is President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. (Photo courtesy of University of Montana)

The U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote Thursday on the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management, a step forward for her confirmation after weeks of aggressive Republican opposition.

Committee Chairman Joe Manchin III, 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 chairman 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 appears crucial. He has not said how he will vote. A spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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.

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