Sen. John Barrasso orchestrated a 10-10 deadlock in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Thursday over the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management.
The vote came after Republicans revived a “tree spiking” incident in Idaho in the late 1980s.
Stone-Manning was investigated, but never charged in the scandal. She was later granted prosecutorial immunity to testify against the tree spikers.
Why it Matters: The BLM oversees tens of millions of acres of public lands in Wyoming and the Mountain West, and is the primary agency responsible for the issuance of drilling and grazing permits on those lands.
History: Observers say the politicization of the BLM nomination process is a recent development in American politics. Stone-Manning’s confirmation process has been one of the most heated in recent memory.
Stone-Manning boasts extensive experience in environmental policy and land management in Washington D.C. and Montana, where she briefly led that state’s Department of Environmental Quality before taking on an advisory role for then-Gov. Steve Bullock.
Revelations Stone-Manning may have had prior knowledge of the tree spiking, a type of environmental intervention in which metal rods are driven into trees with the intent of inflicting harm to loggers, have complicated her nomination.
Barrasso’s role: Barrasso led a weeks-long opposition campaign to Stone-Manning’s nomination that culminated in Thursday’s heated debate and deadlocked vote.
“How can we confirm someone who’s admitted to conspiring with terrorists?” Barrasso asked Thursday.
Democratic New Mexico Sen. Mike Heinrich called Republican opposition to Stone-Manning “the worst example of character assassination” he’d ever seen.
“I am disgusted by what has happened in this committee,” he said.
Barrasso noted that some conservation organizations have withdrawn support over the controversy. Others, including the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, have remained steadfast in their support of Stone-Manning.
“Tracy Stone-Manning will provide the balanced, solutions-oriented leadership that the Bureau of Land Management needs,” WWF director Dwayne Meadows wrote in a July 17 op-ed in the Casper Star-Tribune.
What’s next: With the committee deadlocked, Stone-Manning’s nomination now goes on to a convoluted process in the U.S. Senate.
Barrasso has guaranteed a united opposition from all 50 Senate Republicans.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) voted in favor of her nomination Thursday, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has pledged to advance her nomination once it reaches the Senate floor.
If Schumer delivers on that pledge, Stone-Manning’s nomination would be all but guaranteed with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.