Interior Secretary Deb Haaland could not answer for the controversies surrounding Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), when Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confronted Haaland about Stone-Manning during a hearing Tuesday.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) pressed the secretary, whose department houses the BLM, on several of Stone-Manning’s controversial stances, at one point asking specifically about Stone-Manning’s recent support for her husband’s article suggesting some homes built in wildfire-prone areas ought to burn.
Lee asked, “Were you aware of public statements that Ms. Stone-Manning had made only months before her nomination calling for homes built in forests to burn in forest fires?”
Haaland replied, “I had not read any of that, senator, and I mean, yes, I am the secretary of the Interior, but she is the president’s nominee, and I am in a — I mean, I didn’t nominate her. I am here to move the department forward on the president’s priorities, and that is what I am focused on at the moment.”
Earlier in the hearing, committee ranking member Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) grilled Haaland on an issue Republicans have universally condemned Stone-Manning for: her involvement in a 1989 tree spiking crime while she was a member of Earth First!, an ecoterrorist organization.
Haaland, during her exchange with Barrasso, again eventually deferred to Biden instead of responding to Barrasso’s question about Stone-Manning’s qualifications.
A partial transcript is below:
BARRASSO: “I have some short questions for you. If you could please respond briefly. The first has to do with tree spiking, where people drive metal spikes into trees. Can tree spiking kill or maim loggers and mill workers?”
HAALAND: “Senator, I imagine so. I was not really familiar with any of that practice until recently.”
BARRASSO: “Is tree spiking in national forests a federal crime?”
HAALAND: “Senator, I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I imagine it’s very dangerous.”
BARRASSO: “Should individuals who are aware of spiked trees, in terms of national forests, should they immediately inform law enforcement?”
HAALAND: “I imagine that anyone should inform law enforcement if it’s a danger, sure.”
BARRASSO: “So I guess the question is, should individuals who plan or otherwise are involved in tree spiking incidents and threaten physical safety of federal officials, should they expect to be hired by the Department of the Interior?
HAALAND: “Senator, I believe you’re referring to the nominee, Tracy Stone-Manning, and I also recognize that she was nominated by President Biden because he felt she could do the job and that she was qualified otherwise.”
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 10–10 along party lines on Stone-Manning last week, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday afternoon filed a motion to discharge her nomination out of the committee so that the full Senate could vote to consider her nomination.
The vote to discharge her nomination to the full Senate will take place later in the day Tuesday.
Barrasso has said all 49 of his Republican colleagues are united in opposing Stone-Manning’s nomination. Because the upper chamber is split 50–50, all 50 Democrats would therefore need to vote to confirm Stone-Manning — assuming her nomination is discharged from the committee — and then Vice President Kamala Harris would need to cast a tiebreaking vote.
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