Niels Lesniewski

Senator Plots Bill to Prevent a Repeat of United Airlines Episode
Van Hollen seeks support for ‘Customers Not Cargo’ Act

Sen. Chris Van Hollen is drafting legislation to make the forcible removal of passengers from commercial airlines illegal.

The Maryland Democrat circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday, seeking co-sponsors for what he is billing as the “Customers Not Cargo Act.”

Trump’s Chance to Fill Lower Court Vacancies Rest on Bipartisanship
Grassley is eager to begin processing judicial nominations

With Justice Neil Gorsuch safely ensconced on the Supreme Court, the Trump administration now needs to focus on more than a hundred open federal court seats. 

Of those, 48 vacancies are considered judicial emergencies. But according to statistics maintained by the administrative office of the federal courts, only one nominee has been put forward by the White House so far.

Arena Stage Honors G.K. Butterfield
North Carolina Democrat receives theater’s American Voice Award

When Arena Stage honored Rep. G.K. Butterfield before last week’s opening of “A Raisin in the Sun,” it was recognizing one of the theater’s neighbors.

“I’m right at home here in Southwest. My apartment is right across the street,” the North Carolina Democrat said. “I came to D.C. in a special election in 1994, and Southwest D.C. did not look anything like it looks right now.” 

D.C. Area Lawmakers to Colleagues: Leave Our Airport Alone
Warn against easing restrictions on long-haul flights into Reagan National Airport

Lawmakers from in and around Washington are warning their congressional colleagues against changing local airport rules in a bid to make it easier for them to get back to their home states.

A group of 15 members of Congress, led by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia and Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, along with Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., do not want to see any easing of restrictions on long-haul flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — whose Arlington, Virginia, location is significantly closer to the Capitol building than either of the other major airports in the area.

McConnell Doesn’t Think Trump Will Mess With GOP Senate Races
‘I think the administration will defer to our judgement’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not worried about President Donald Trump backing primary challengers to the Kentucky Republican’s preferred candidates.

McConnell’s political operation has not been shy about engaging in primary politics in an effort to get the best candidate on the ballot for the general election.

Senate GOP Deploys ‘Nuclear Option’ for Supreme Court
Move allows Judge Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed by simple majority

The Senate took another step Thursday toward doing away with centuries-old traditions that have distinguished it from virtually every other legislative body in the world. 

Senate Republicans moved forward with invoking the “nuclear option” Thursday to make it so a simple majority of senators can confirm any future Supreme Court justice.

Senate’s Supreme Court Nuclear Countdown Reaches Zero
Filibuster of Neil Gorsuch followed by procedural motions triggering ‘nuclear option’

The Senate’s Supreme Court doomsday clock has reached midnight.

Senators voted, 55-45, to limit debate on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court — short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster under precedents in effect as of the opening of business Thursday.

Moderates Could Get More Attention in Post-Nuclear Senate
Need to get just a simple majority for SCOTUS nominees will create new dynamic

As the Senate moves toward getting rid of the ability of 41 senators to block Supreme Court nominees, moderates could see their profiles rise in any post “nuclear option” reality with a renewed emphasis on party unity. 

Conventional wisdom is that presidents would be able to pick more stridently partisan nominees for the high court if the risk of a super majority filibuster is eliminated. But such a procedural change would also put a bigger target on moderate members of the majority.

Manchin: Pushing for a ‘Full Fix’ on Miner Benefits
December standoff brought only a stopgap deal

The debate over miner health care and pensions that brought the Senate to the precipice of a government shutdown in December might be coming back.

Coal miners from the United Mine Workers have been all over the Capitol meeting with lawmakers in recent weeks.

Senators to Trump: Stand Up to Assad, Putin
Bipartisan support for tough stand after reported use of chemical weapons by Syria


Senators from both parties want to know if President Donald Trump has the gumption to stand up to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad — and by extension Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kaine: Gorsuch Filibuster is Different From Stonewalling Garland
Says he would've suggested changing nominee if Garland failed to get 60 votes

Republicans are citing the words of Sen. Tim Kaine when he was running for vice president in their arguments to change Senate precedent on advancing Supreme Court justices, but the Virginia Democrat disputes the comparison.

Kaine gave a campaign trail interview that signaled a Democratic majority might support effectively changing the rules to make sure a Democratic Supreme Court nominee — such as Merrick Garland, who was nominated by President Barack Obama — could overcome a GOP blockade.

Rand Paul Proffers Kinda, Sorta Obamacare Repeal, Replace
After golfing with Trump, Kentucky Senator explores alternatives

Before huddling with members of the House Freedom Caucus Monday, Sen. Rand Paul said he was pushing President Donald Trump on a new construct for the repeal and replacement of the 2010 health care law.

Paul, a Kentucky Republican, suggested a possibility of keeping some subsidies in the 2010 law in place rather than replacing them with a new bundle of tax credits, a move that could keep conservatives from basically voting for new entitlements.

It's Official: Filibuster of Neil Gorsuch Starts Nuclear Option Clock
Enough Democrats announce opposition to limiting debate

Senate Republicans will have to use the “nuclear option” to get Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The procedural maneuvering that will likely culminate in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moving to change the chamber’s rules is necessary because 41 members of the Democratic caucus have announced opposition to limiting debate on the Gorsuch nomination. That means they would support a filibuster and the need for 60 votes to get Gorsuch through to confirmation.

Here’s How the Senate Gorsuch Debate Might Play Out
Timeline sets up for nuclear option standoff on Thursday

All signs point toward a standoff over the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court that will lead Senate Republicans to use the “nuclear option” to effectively change the chamber’s rules for confirmations.

Here’s a timeline of how the week might play out:

Senate Preparing to Revive the Delta Queen
Wooden vessel needs an exemption, and the Senate's now set a vote

Before the week’s headline Supreme Court debate, senators are poised to get the Delta Queen back cruising America’s waterways.

The legendary riverboat has been barred from carrying overnight passengers since an exemption to the 1966 Safety of Life at Sea Act for the largely wooden vessel lapsed back in 2008.

Pence, Isakson Key to Measure Allowing States to Restrict Family Planning Funds
Votes on resolution overturning Obama-era rule need VP’s help

The Senate Republican majority is razor-thin enough on social policy that Vice President Mike Pence needed to break two ties Thursday to let states block family planning money from health care providers, most prominently Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Johnny Isakson didn’t expect to return to the Capitol after back surgery to be casting such consequential votes.

Corker Criticizes Ryan for Not Wanting Trump to Work With Democrats
Tennessee Republican: ‘We have come a long way in our country’

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s pronouncement that he does not want President Donald Trump working with Democrats on health care wasn’t received well by one senior Republican.

Sen. Bob Corker tweeted that “we have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem.”

Senate Intelligence Leaders Stress Bipartisanship in Russia Probe
Burr admits he voted for Trump, but emphasizes how big the moment is

Last week’s Supreme Court nomination hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch likely weren't the most interesting Senate business on the second floor of the Hart Office Building.

That’s where the Senate Intelligence Committee conducts its meetings in a secure facility just around the corner from where the Judiciary Committee was meeting.

Warren and Carper Question Ivanka Trump’s White House Arrangement
Senators ask who would enforce ethics violations

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to know how ethics laws will affect Ivanka Trump as she goes to work in the White House without, apparently, being a government employee.

The Massachusetts Democrat joined Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware in a Wednesday morning missive to the Office of Government Ethics questioning the White House’s arrangement with the daughter of President Donald Trump.

Senators Look to Supreme Court Nuclear Winter
With rule change seemingly inevitable, senators look to what’s next

The Senate Republicans’ deployment of the “nuclear option” to change the chamber’s rules and confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is so inevitable that senators are already moving on to the next debate.

“We’re on this spiral downward, and obviously, the next thing to go likely the next time there’s a big issue that comes up legislatively will be the legislative filibuster,” Sen. Bob Corker said Tuesday.