Niels Lesniewski

Senators Silent After Meeting With FBI Director Comey
Friday afternoon meeting came after votes finished for recess

Not much can get between senators and a recess. Except, perhaps, FBI Director James B. Comey. 

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, along with ex-officio member and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, huddled for a total of more than two hours on Friday with Comey.

Kamala Harris Aims for Influence as a Check on Trump
Even as a freshman, Calif. Democrat has started Senate career with a bang

Donald Trump received less than a third of the votes cast for president by California voters, and that’s something the state’s new senator, Kamala Harris, is well aware of.

Harris, the former state attorney general, had already spoken up on the Senate floor against the nominations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos by the time she gave her more traditional “maiden speech” Thursday. The freshman Democrat started by recounting how her mother, an Indian immigrant, chose to marry her Jamaican father in the U.S. instead of returning to India for an arranged marriage.

Ted Cruz Wants to Repeal Obamacare Now, Then Work Out Replacement Details
Texas Republican says they must 'honor the promise we've made to voters for six years running now'

Even no with no consensus replacement for Obamacare in sight, Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing for action on the repeal long promised by Republicans.

“What I think is critical at the outset is that we honor the promise we've made to voters for six years running now to repeal Obamacare. We've had three elections — 2010, 2014 and 2016 — that were referenda on repealing Obamacare, and we need to honor that promise,” Cruz said. “Once Obamacare’s repealed, then we need common sense health care reform that expands choices, that lowers prices, and empowers patients to make their own health care decisions."

Tim Kaine on the Constitution’s ‘230-Year Checkup’
Virginia senator says Trump presidency is ‘living experiment’ on overreach

FAIRFAX, Va. — Sen. Tim Kaine says that with President Donald Trump in office, Americans are in a “living experiment” to see whether or not the Constitution still works to check executive power. 

Given the roles that sons of the commonwealth played in crafting the Constitution, perhaps it is no surprise that a Virginia senator would make the case that the relevancy of the document itself will be tested by the 45th president.

McConnell Lines Up Slew of Cabinet Nominee Votes
Mick Mulvaney will be first of half-dozen nominations to get vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid the groundwork for another procedural slog on the Senate floor that could stretch into the early part of March.

First up after a previously scheduled vote Tuesday morning on Linda McMahon’s nomination to helm the Small Business Administration will be the Office of Management and Budget director nominee, Rep. Mick Mulvaney. The South Carolina Republican will receive a vote this week after what’s expected to be a blistering debate likely focused on his tea party past, including his past opposition to increased defense spending.

Unanimous Vote for Obama-Era Official as VA Secretary
David Shulkin provides rare bipartisan confirmation moment

In a break from the partisan rancor over Donald Trump’s nominees, senators came together to back the president’s choice to helm the Department of Veterans Affairs, who so happened to be a senior-level holdover from the administration of President Barack Obama.

David Shulkin received overwhelming bipartisan support to head the VA, which has been plagued by health care scandals in recent years. Senators quickly backed Shulkin in a unanimous vote.

Tom Price Becomes Leader of Crusade to Roll Back Obamacare
Georgia congressman confirmed overnight as Health and Human Services secretary

Confirmation of Rep. Tom Price gives President Donald Trump his desired point man for replacing Obamacare. Now what?

Price won approval of the Senate, 52-47, around 2 a.m. Friday, and Republicans expect the confirmation will speed up work on rolling back the Affordable Care Act.

Democratic Attacks on Sessions Influenced Rand Paul’s Vote
But the Kentucky Republican is concerned about DOJ under Trump

Sen. Rand Paul voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as President Donald Trump’s attorney general, but that doesn’t mean the Kentucky Republican with libertarian leanings doesn’t have real concerns about how Sessions will run the Justice Department.

And he thinks it will be more difficult to make progress on a criminal justice overhaul with a Trump-Sessions DOJ.

Trump Blasts John McCain for Emboldening America’s Enemies
Arizona Republican had criticized raid in Yemen

President Donald Trump accused Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain of helping America’s enemies by criticizing an ill-fated U.S. military raid in Yemen.

The Arizona Republican, “should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media,” Trump said in an early morning tweet. “Only emboldens the enemy!”

Hey (Rule) 19! Conservatives Push Senate Crackdown
Any move to control floor will likely further poison the well

The Senate rule that directed Sen. Elizabeth Warren to stop talking could be deployed by Republicans to thwart a Democratic filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. But such a move could make the Senate environment even more toxic, if that’s possible.

Democrats panned the move by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans on Tuesday night to require Warren, the liberal icon from Massachusetts, to take her seat for violating the chamber’s decorum, specifically Rule 19.

Warren Blocked From Speaking During Sessions Confirmation Debate
Republicans say Massachusetts Democrat impugned AG nominee

Updated 10:22 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren clashed on the chamber floor Tuesday evening, with the Kentucky Republican moving for the Massachusetts Democrat to take her seat.

Senators voted along party lines, 49-43, to uphold a ruling of the chair, blocking Warren from speaking for the remainder of the debate on confirmation of fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

Senators to Unveil Effort to Check Trump on Russia Sanctions
Graham and Cardin say release of sanctions oversight bill is imminent

Key senators plan to release bipartisan legislation Wednesday that would give Congress a say in any effort to ease sanctions against Russia.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said just after President Donald Trump took office that such a bill would be developed, and two senators expected to spearhead the measure have told Roll Call that release is imminent.

Puzder Employed Undocumented Housekeeper
Labor nominee has paid back taxes

Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder said Monday evening that he had employed a housekeeper who did not have the proper documents to work in the United States.

“My wife and I employed a housekeeper for a few years, during which I was unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S.,” Puzder said in a written statement Monday. “When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status. We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the state of California and submitted all required paperwork.”

With Nominations Slog, Senators Kill Time They Have to Kill
Around-the-clock sessions on nominations provide cover for lack of big legislation

The slog of Senate floor votes on Cabinet nominations could easily drag into the weekend, but there’s a difference between something taking a long time and there being any suspense.

All-night sessions like the one aimed at Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Education secretary, might become the norm. But there’s only so much pending Senate business for the talkathons to actually delay.

House and Senate Preview: Off to Baltimore While Senate Confirmation Battles Loom

Roll Call reporters Lindsey McPherson and Niels Lesniewski lay out what’s on the schedule in the House and Senate this week, with just a few days in session before House Democrats head off to Baltimore for their legislative retreat. Find out where the Education secretary confirmation fight stands and more....
Grassley Pitches Trump on Whistleblowers
Iowan says president should want to know about waste, abuse

“Assuming Trump reads your stories, or somebody there reads your stories, tell them that they’ve got to deal with Chuck Grassley if they don’t treat whistleblowers right.” 

That’s the message Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley wants the White House to hear. And given how important the Iowa Republican is to advancing the agenda of President Donald Trump, his words carry weight. 

New Poll Shows Unease With ‘Nuclear Option’ for Supreme Court Pick
Survey conducted largely before Trump announced his choice

A new poll commissioned by progressive groups has found that nearly seven in 10 voters say they’re against using the “nuclear option” to confirm a Supreme Court justice.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for NARAL, Every Voice and End Citizens United, and shared first with Roll Call. It asked about the Senate Democrats’ insistence that the current nominee be confirmed with a supermajority of at least 60 votes. 

Grassley Outlines Timeline for Confirming Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee
Judiciary chairman anticipates a six week process

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is laying out his plan to get Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court before the Easter recess.

The Republican from Iowa has a roughly six week timeline for getting Gorsuch, the 10th Circuit appellate judge from Colorado who was named Tuesday night by President Donald Trump, as his choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the highest court.

Democratic Class of 2018 Key to Gorsuch Supreme Court Fight
Manchin the first Democrat to meet Trump’s nominee

Sen. Joe Manchin III on Wednesday became the first Democrat to meet with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, as Republicans began the long quest for Democratic votes for the conservative judge from Colorado.

When asked if Gorsuch should need 60 senators to support his confirmation, as he would if Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and other Democrats follow through on a filibuster threat, Manchin said nominees should always need bipartisan backing, including for the president’s Cabinet and lower courts.

In Age of Trump, Chaos Reigns in the Senate
Tensions over basic procedures takes over chamber

The Senate reached a new level of dysfunction Tuesday, and that was even before the debate on filling the Supreme Court began.

“You know, ‘advice and consent’ doesn’t mean ram the nominees through … These nominees are not what Donald Trump promised and not what represent middle-class American values,” Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters, adding that it wasn’t enough to just vote against President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks.