Colorado’s Republican Representatives Urge Bennet And Hickenlooper To Flex Muscles On BLM Headquarters Decision

Stina Sieg/CPR News
Rep. Lauren Boebert speaks with reporters during a press conference with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in Grand Junction on Friday, July 23, 2021. Behind her are Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Negeuse.

Put a hold on Biden's nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management until Colorado gets a commitment to keep the headquarters in Grand Junction — that's what the state’s three Republican Congress members are calling on Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper to do. 

“Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet have the power to stand up for Colorado and leverage the Biden administration into keeping the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters and existing personnel spots in Grand Junction,” said Silt Republican Lauren Boebert in a statement. “My hope is they will put Colorado first.”

A Senate hold is a parliamentary procedure that enables one senator to block a nomination or legislation from moving forward.

“There is bipartisan agreement in Colorado’s congressional delegation that the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters should stay in Grand Junction,” said Rep. Ken Buck, noting that both senators share that position. “And I hope they place a hold on [Tracy] Stone-Manning’s nomination in order to keep the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters there.”

But if Republicans want to see Democrats use more of a stick to keep BLM in Grand Junction, their Democrat colleagues are so far hewing to carrots to try to get the desired result.

“A much more constructive approach is the bipartisan meeting that we had on Friday in Grand Junction,” Bennet said. He noted that it gave Interior Sec. Deb Haaland the opportunity to meet and talk with leaders in the community, including Boebert. “And I hope we'll continue that conversation and try to create the right outcome for Colorado and the right outcome for the BLM.”

During a committee hearing on Tuesday, Hickenlooper also talked about the bipartisan feedback Haaland received during her trip to the Western Slope.

A Hickenlooper spokesperson said “the senator believes we must restore a fully-functioning BLM headquarters and is encouraged by our productive, bipartisan community meeting with Secretary Haaland about the importance of the agency’s presence in the West.” 

There is precedent for senators using holds to push for policy changes, even against an administration controlled by his own party.

Former Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner put holds on Justice Department nominees in early 2018 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, potentially opening the way for a federal crackdown in states with legalized marijuana. Gardner said at the time that was not what Sessions had promised him.

More recently, Boebert noted that Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan put a hold on several Air Force and Department of Defense nominees after the Air Force passed over a base in Michigan to be an F-35 training center.

“If the junior senator from Michigan can hold up eight Department of Defense nominations to secure a victory for his state, then one of Colorado’s two U.S. Senators can hold up the BLM Director nomination to secure a victory for Colorado.”

Holds don’t always lead to the results lawmakers seek, but rather become a bargaining chip to gain a compromise.

Peters’ hold didn’t lead to a training center, but a commitment to keep and modernize an A-10 squadron at the base instead. Gardner didn’t get Sessions to change his decision. The Yuma Republican released some of his holds while negotiating with the Justice Department, and then released the rest after receiving verbal assurances from then-President Donald Trump to support legislation protecting marijuana industries in states that had legalized. Congress never passed such legislation.

Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning, has come under fire from Republicans in recent weeks for her links to a tree-spiking incident in the late 1980s. Republicans have been pushing hard to derail her confirmation, but no Republican has put a hold on her nomination either.

The BLM has been without a confirmed director since the Obama administration and dealing with the controversial headquarters move is just one of the issues a new director will have to deal with.

Stone-Manning's nomination moved forward Tuesday evening. The Senate voted to discharge her nomination from committee 50-49 after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee deadlocked on her nomination last week.

Both Bennet and Hickenlooper voted to move her nomination to the full Senate for consideration.