Niels Lesniewski

Arizona’s Double-Barrel Rejection of President Trump’s ‘Fake News’
Flake, McCain offer defenses of the free press ahead of Trump’s awards

Arizona’s two Republican senators asserted themselves Wednesday as defenders of the free press.

Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor for a well-publicized defense of the truth, as President Donald Trump was potentially preparing for an Orwellian “fake news” award ceremony.

Key GOP Negotiators Doubt Immigration Deal Materializes This Week

A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown.

“I think we’re optimistic that we’ll get a deal. I think this week would be fairly Herculean,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters Tuesday after a meeting with staff of the No. 2 congressional leaders.

Pot Debate Latest Complication for Replacing U.S. Attorneys
Gardner has concerns about process in Colorado, which still has no nominee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions might soon find himself working with court-appointed U.S. attorneys, in part because his hard line on marijuana is throwing a wrench in the nominations process.

Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, met with the attorney general last week to voice concerns after the Justice Department reversed course on an Obama-era policy and allowed federal prosecutors wider discretion to pursue criminal charges related to marijuana — even in states that have legalized it for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Durbin Confirms Trump’s ‘Hate-Filled, Vile and Racist’ Talk
Illinois Democrat, who was in meeting, says media reports about Trump’s words have been accurate

Updated 1:08 p.m. | Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin told reporters Friday that he heard President Donald Trump make the vulgar remarks about immigrants that have been widely reported in the press and dismissed by the White House. 

The Illinois Democrat said Trump’s comments during a Thursday meeting “were hate-filled, vile and racist.”

Ahead of FISA Vote, Trump Sows Confusion
House Dems see ‘latest example’ of Trump ‘undermining’ security

President Donald Trump sent mixed signals Thursday morning about a controversial law used to collect intelligence on individuals suspected of spying on the United States just hours before the House is slated to vote on reauthorizing it. And a key privacy hawk in Congress contends the president is more in line with him than the White House lets on.

For nearly two hours, the commander in chief even broke with his own White House’s stance on whether the law should remain on the books. But in an apparent clean-up operation, Trump was forced to fire off a tweet declaring this of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: “We need it!”

Senate Leaders Announce New Committee Rosters
Ratio change gives GOP a one-seat advantage at all committtees

The full Senate is set to ratify revised committee rosters and ratios before adjourning Tuesday evening.

The changes add a Democrat to the Finance and Judiciary Committees, because each needed new Democrats to provide an across-the-board one-seat advantage for the GOP with their diminished majority.

Government Violated Law in Mysterious Cuba Injuries Case, Rubio Says
Failed to set up review board in time

Sen. Marco Rubio has accused the government of violating the law by not setting up a review after apparent sonic attacks caused mysterious injuries to personnel based at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba.

“The bottom line is: the State Department did not follow the law in setting [up an accountability review board] in the 120 day period, in my opinion,” Rubio said. “We first heard of the complaints in late 2016.”

White House Reiterates Wall Demand Ahead of Key Meeting
Sen. Graham, other lawmakers look to pair DACA with border security upgrades

Just hours before a high-stakes White House meeting with Republicans and Democrats, the Trump administration continued to hold tight to its demand that funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed southern border wall be included in a possible immigration overhaul bill.

“President Trump looks forward to meeting with bipartisan members of the House and Senate today to discuss the next steps toward achieving responsible immigration reform,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

Trump Takes McConnell’s Side in Republican Primaries
Says he does not envision backing challenges to GOP incumbents

President Donald Trump appears to have adopted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s view about Republican primaries.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, often says that, “there’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

Podcast: The Senate GOP's Math Problem
CQ on Congress, Episode 85

The Week Ahead Podcast is now CQ on Congress. New look but same great show. CQ Senate reporter, Niels Lesniewski, says the Senate Republican majority, now just one seat, will struggle to pass legislation and confirm judges in 2018.

 

Three VPs, Football Boasts and a Relief Baseball Pitcher: Not Your Normal Swearing-In Day
With Democrats Smith and Jones, GOP Senate edge now down to 51-49

The start of the second session of a Congress lacks most of the pageantry of the first, but Wednesday’s arrival of two new senators prompted some pomp and circumstance, including the rare sight of three vice presidents on the Senate floor at the same time.

Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Tina Smith of Minnesota took the oath of office from Vice President Mike Pence shortly after noon, each escorted down the chamber’s aisle by a former vice president.

It’s Not Just Romney: Hatch Retirement Could Lead to Decisions for Grassley, Crapo
Judiciary chairman appears to have time left as leader of Finance panel

When GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch announced Tuesday that he will retire from the Senate after serving Utah for more than four decades, talk quickly turned to whether Mitt Romney will seek to succeed him.

But on Capitol Hill, the pending departure of the Finance Committee chairman — who could have wielded the tax writing gavel for two more years under conference rules — also raises questions about which senator will lead the GOP on taxes, trade, health care and entitlements.

Sen. Orrin Hatch Announces Retirement
‘Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves’

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch announced Tuesday he will retire after seven terms in the Senate. The Utah lawmaker becomes the third of eight Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2018 to retire. 

“When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington. But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching,” Hatch said in a video statement.

House Extends Christmas Recess, Will Return Jan. 8
Members will return just eight legislative days from another shutdown showdown

House members can extend their holiday vacations, but senators have no such luck.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office announced Friday that the House will not kick off work for the second session of the 115th Congress until Monday, Jan. 8, with a customary 6:30 p.m. vote series.

McConnell Closes 2017, Looks Forward to Bourbon and College Football
Takes final victory lap at Capitol after tax overhaul

Sporting his Louisville Cardinals red, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bid farewell to the Capitol for 2017 on Friday.

Aside from a review of the year’s legislative accomplishments, McConnell wished gathered reporters a Merry Christmas and offered a little advice for the holiday season, after being asked if he had any Kentucky Bourbon recommendations.

Senator Subpoenas OPM for Details of Congressional Health Care Decisions
Sen. Ron Johnson had threatened such action

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson has now issued a subpoena for details of the development of the program through which members of Congress and many staffers get health insurance.

The Republican from Wisconsin is following through on pressing the Office of Personnel Management for details on how the Obama administration crafted the policy allowing members and covered staff to get health insurance, with assistance of federal employee contributions, through the small business exchange the District of Columbia set up under the 2010 health care law.

A Senate Christmas Present: Several Trump Nominees Confirmed
Senators finish delayed routine business, hard choices put off

At the very end of an acrimonious first year working with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, the Senate reverted to form, looking very much like the Senate.

McConnell Puts Infrastructure Ahead of Entitlements in 2018
Says candidate recruitment continues, hopes Rick Scott runs in Florida

With the tax code overhaul on its way to President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking ahead to 2018, in both politics and policy.

“I think that Democrats are not going to be interested in entitlement reform, so I would not expect to see that on the agenda,” McConnell said Thursday at an event hosted by Axios.

Lankford, Rules Panel, Kick Off Latest Nominations Debate
Hearing likely to prelude 2018 fights

It is unusual for a sitting senator to be the sole witness before a committee, and it is even more unusual for a senator to face questions in such a setting.

But such was the experience Tuesday afternoon when Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Lankford appeared in the Rules and Administration Committee hearing room with a dire warning.

Covering the Capitol: Adjusting to New Realities
 

Getting quickly from one part of the sprawling Capitol Building to another has always meant negotiating a labyrinth of stairwells and hallways, but these days more places tend to be off-limits due to security concerns at a moment’s notice. Four CQ and Roll Call journalists talk about how critical access to lawmakers is becoming more of a challenge....