The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee split along party lines Thursday on Bureau of Land Management nominee Tracy Stone-Manning, whose nomination has been roiled by her involvement in a three-decades-old tree-spiking case.
The committee voted 10-10 on President Biden’s choice to lead the agency, meaning that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer must file a discharge petition to bring the nomination to the Senate floor.
All 10 Republicans urged Mr. Biden last week to withdraw her name, accusing her of making “false and misleading statements” about her role in the 1989 tree-spiking plot, but Sen. Joe Manchin III, who chairs the committee, tipped the balance in her favor.
The West Virginia Democrat said he viewed Ms. Stone-Manning, who was a graduate student at the University of Montana when she became involved with the radical environmental group Earth First, as a “youthful sympathizer” who has since become a “very moderate person.”
“I think about Tracy Stone-Manning as being a youthful sympathizer for the environment,” said Mr. Manchin. “Her and I might disagree on things. But she was a youthful sympathizer. There is no facts whatsoever that corroborate that she has basically had done the things that has been accused. She’d have been charged. She wasn’t.”
Ms. Stone-Manning struck an immunity deal with prosecutors to testify in 1993 about her decision to retype, edit and mail an anonymous letter warning of spiked trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest on behalf of one of the perpetrators, who was later convicted.
During heated debate on her nomination lasting more than an hour, some Senate Republicans held up metal spikes similar to those that were driven into the trees, pointing out that some of the trees from the timber sale are still spiked.
Ranking Republican Sen. John Barrasso said it would be hard to find a nominee “more disqualified than Tracy Stone-Manning.”
“Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with eco-terrorists, she lied to this committee, and she continues to harbor extremist views most Americans find reprehensible,” said Mr. Barrasso. “She is thoroughly disqualified from holding the important position of director of the Bureau of Land Management.”
He and other Republicans accused her of lying to the committee on her sworn questionnaire by saying she had never been under federal investigation, even though the lead investigator in the case said she was asked for hair and writing samples, and later sent a “target letter” by the grand jury.
“Lying to the United States Senate has consequences. In this case, her actions and her lies should cost her this nomination,” Mr. Barrasso said.
Mr. Manchin disputed that characterization, arguing that “being called to testify before a grand jury does not make one a target of a grand jury investigation.”
As director of the BLM, Ms. Stone-Manning would be in charge of managing more than 245 million acres of federal land, including 65 million acres of forest and woodlands.
The Biden administration has stood by Ms. Stone-Manning despite the staunch opposition from Republicans as well as former BLM
director Bob Abbey, who served from 2009-12 during the Obama administration.
Democrats swung back at Thursday’s meeting. Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico Democrat, accused Republicans of “character assassination” and drew comparisons to the GOP response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
“More than a few members of this committee refused to hold the instigator of that responsible, and yet they’re hellbent on dragging Ms. Stone-Manning
‘s name through the mud,” Mr. Heinrich said.
Sen. James E. Risch, Idaho Republican, who has a degree in forestry, called the committee
vote an insult to the BLM
“I’ve only been on this committee for 13 years, but I’ve got to tell you, this is probably the most significant act of an insult to a really good agency and the people in that agency that I’ve ever seen perpetrated by this committee,” Mr. Risch said. “I don’t know how this nomination has gotten this far.”