In a controversial meeting that distilled a weeks-long fight, the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources blocked 10-10 according to party lines Thursday in approving the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning at the head of the Bureau of Land Management.
This means that an additional procedural vote will be forced before the full U.S. Senate accepts the appointment of Stone-Manning, a senior Montanan and National Wildlife Federation adviser linked to a 1989 plan to drive spikes into the trees of Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest.
But unless a Democrat splits, it looks like Stone-Manning will be confirmed, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the casting vote in a 50-50 split-party Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday Stone-Manning had his full support.
Ahead of the committee vote, Republicans waved metal spikes and made accusations as they continued to denounce Stone-Manning, a former senior member of the Montana Democrats, for her role in the spikes case. ‘trees.
She was appointed by President Joe Biden to head an agency that manages 245 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of mining and plays a huge role in many western states.
An animated Jim Risch, who was a federal prosecutor in Idaho before becoming the U.S. Republican senator for the state, said Stone-Manning should be tried for perjury instead of being considered for a post in the administration.
Risch called his appointment “the biggest insult” to the BLM and its workers that he had seen in 13 years on the committee.
Democrats said she was marred by Republican attacks that ignored her long history in public life, and accused Republicans of caring more about the events of decades ago than the attack. against the United States Capitol on January 6.
Democrats and Republicans on the panel disagreed over what the trial record, testimony from a federal investigator and others involved in the case meant about Stone-Manning’s role.
Committee chairman Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat whose support has been crucial to Stone-Manning, said he took the charges against her “very seriously.” Its staff have reviewed the 1,800-page 1993 transcript of tree enrichment, a federal crime because of the damage it can cause to loggers and other forest workers.
“I could not find credible evidence in the comprehensive tree enrichment trial record that shows Ms. Stone-Manning was an eco-terrorist, that she planted trees, that she she conspired with eco-terrorists to steal trees or that she lied to the committee, ”Manchin said.
“What I find instead is compelling evidence that she has built a solid reputation over the past three decades as a dedicated public servant and problem solver who brought people together.”
Republicans criticized Stone-Manning, as they’ve been doing for weeks, for not making known what she knew about the plan to spy on the trees.
She only provided testimony from 1993 that helped convict two men for planting trees after investigators became aware of her role, which included re-entering and sending a threat letter to the US Forest Service, said Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming.
At the heart of the Republican case against Stone-Manning, she lied to the committee that she had never been the target of an investigation. Tree-hanging case investigators collected hair samples, fingerprints and other evidence from Stone-Manning, making her a target, Republicans said.
Former Forest Service investigator Michael W. Merkley wrote in a letter to the committee that Stone-Manning had received a letter telling him that she was the target of an investigation. John Blount, one of those convicted of planting the trees, said Stone-Manning was aware of the plan in advance.
A co-accused refuted this claim. The trial record shows no evidence she knew beforehand, Manchin said.
But Barrasso, who led the GOP assault, said Merkley and Blount’s accounts show Stone-Manning was not being truthful.
“The cop and the criminal agree that Tracy Stone-Manning is lying,” he said. “The cop and the criminal say she knew about the plan before the trees were planted.”
All Republicans on the committee except Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and John Hoeven of North Dakota spoke out against Stone-Manning at the meeting.
But only half of Democrats made substantive remarks, with Ron Wyden of Oregon, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Mark Kelly of Arizona and John Hickenlooper of Colorado speaking only to vote yes. .
Manchin noted that the meeting was among the most emotional he had seen.
Responding to Risch’s comments about perjury, Manchin said Stone-Manning’s statements had been on the legal record for years and that she had not been granted immunity from perjury charges when she was called. testified.
Waving a metal tip that could be used to plant trees, Risch said that Stone-Manning’s characterization of erring in even associating with people involved in tree planting too lightly precluded a serious act of eco-terrorism.
“You put that in a tree to kill somebody,” he said. “It is not put on for fun. This is not a Sunday school prank… It is not a mistake. A mistake is when you reach into your sock drawer in the morning and pull out two mismatched socks. It is an intentional act for which people are sent to prison, and should be. “
Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M., said there was no evidence Stone-Manning was involved in tree planting. Instead, she built an “impeccable” record of 20 years of working with the forestry industry and others.
“I’m disgusted by what has happened in this committee, disgusted, and I will never forget it,” said Heinrich. “This is the worst example of personal injury I have ever seen on this committee.”
Panel members became more familiar with domestic terrorism – an accusation some Republicans have leveled against Stone-Manning – than they would like on January 6, and yet failed to hold onto then-President Donald Trump responsible, was stressed by Democrats.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Picked up this thread after Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont., Said Stone-Manning should be disqualified because she had not been honest with the committee or had expressed remorse for the role she had played. during the 1989 event.
Sanders responded that he didn’t know what happened 32 years ago, but accused Daines of lying about the 2020 election results just months ago in a statement accusing Democrats of ‘stealing the elections.
“Is this a real statement?” Sanders asked Daines. “I want to go here because we are talking about honesty, we are talking about integrity. I don’t know what happened 32 years ago… but the people in this room are undermining American democracy.
Daines supported efforts to question the presidential election results until supporters of then-President Donald Trump walked across Capitol Hill on January 6.
Daines on Thursday denied the claim by some Stone-Manning supporters that he orchestrated the campaign to oppose her nomination because she supported his Democratic opponent, then Montana governor, Steve Bullock, in the election. ‘last year.
Senator Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Called the argumentative meeting a “skunk fight.” He focused his remarks on a personal loan Stone-Manning received from a real estate developer in 2008 while working for Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Marshall said the 6% interest rate and loan payment terms amounted to an inappropriate gift. Manchin replied that it complied with the federal standard in effect at the time.
Calling the attacks on Stone-Manning “hysterical,” Schumer, of New York, told the Senate on Thursday that he would move Stone-Manning’s nomination to the floor.
Barrasso said on CNBC this week that all 50 Republican senators would oppose Stone-Manning.
But with moderates like Manchin and Tester in favor, a floor vote is likely to go party-friendly as well.
Tester told the New York Times this week that Democrats “have the voices to get it confirmed.”
It could still be weeks before the full Senate decides on the nomination.
In another recent case of a candidate who split a Senate committee, Defense Undersecretary for Politics Colin Kahl received a 13-to-13 vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 24.
The Senate did not vote to discharge his nomination from the committee until April 21. It was confirmed six days later.