Niels Lesniewski

Senate mourns deaths of two beloved staffers
Barber David Knight and document room employee Bud Johnson both died recently

David Knight, here with, from left, barber Kim Coleman and manager Cindi Brown, cut hair in the Senate barbershop for 36 years. (Courtesy Senate Hair Care Services)

David Miles Knight spent 36 years as one of the Senate barbers, and he was a familiar face to everyone in the basement of the Russell Building, which has long played host to the barber shop.

Over the weekend, he lost his long fight with cancer, just a day before another longtime Senate employee, Berner Richard Johnson III, succumbed to his injuries from a violent attack, leaving the Senate family in mourning. 

Remembering Democrats’ convention credentialing mastermind
Former House administrative assistant oversaw DNC credentials for two decades

Jackie Falk is surrounded by gifts of flowers at the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. (Courtesy the Falk family)

Jackie Falk might not be a household name, unless you were trying to get credentials for the Democratic National Convention for two decades.

Because of the limited capacity of the venues for national political conventions, there is fierce competition for limited floor passes and seats, even among party luminaries.

AOC and Warren team up to probe Treasury Secretary Mnuchin over Sears bankruptcy
Question Mnuchin's time on the Sears board, connection to CEO Eddie Lampert

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is questioning Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about his ties to the bankrupt Sears. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed up Thursday to blast Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the bankruptcy of Sears.

The Democrats from Massachusetts and New York, respectively, are questioning Mnuchin’s actions as a member of the Sears board and his longstanding ties to Eddie Lampert, the Sears CEO who came into that role after the retailer was purchased by his hedge fund.

US could be at war by the time Congress returns from recess, Udall says
Democrats force votes on approving war with Iran, but come up short in the Senate

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is worried that the United States may be at war with Iran by the time Congress returns from recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill have been forcing votes on President Donald Trump’s military powers this week amid the ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, getting predictably disparate results.

In the latest test, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday turned back a Democrat-led effort to move legislation designed to thwart preemptive military action against Iran.

Iran escalations bring war powers debates back to the Capitol
Sen. Tim Kaine expects debate behind closed doors at the Armed Services Committee

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch says President Donald Trump “doesn’t need any more authority than what he’s got” to respond to a potential attack. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)k

A Senate briefing by the Trump administration Tuesday about the escalation in tensions with Iran appears certain to kick off another round of sparring over the president’s war powers.

When asked last week whether President Donald Trump could strike Iran using existing authorities from the authorization for use of military force that was enacted after 9/11, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected on the history of disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

Americans may vote in 2020 using old, unsecured machines

Despite widespread concern about the integrity of voting machines and their cyber security, many Americans will vote in 2020 using technology that is old, outdated and vulnerable to hacking. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The first primary in the 2020 presidential race is a little more than 250 days away, but lawmakers and experts worry that elections will be held on voting machines that are woefully outdated and that any tampering by adversaries could lead to disputed results.

Although states want to upgrade their voting systems, they don’t have the money to do so, election officials told lawmakers last week.

Senators ask Trump administration why the ‘American Taliban’ is getting out of prison early
John Walker Lindh has been on track for release on Thursday

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby wants to know why the “American Taliban” is in line for early release. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan team of senators is asking the Trump administration why the convicted terrorist who became known as the “American Taliban” is about to get early release from federal prison.

And the questions are coming in part from the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Road ahead: Will Congress get a disaster relief deal before Memorial Day?
House and Senate will keep full schedules as budget talks continue for this week and beyond

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will join their fellow congressional leaders to discuss the budget and the need to lift the country’s debt limit with the administration. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The big question for the week is whether Congress will actually act on long-awaited disaster relief before lawmakers head out for Memorial Day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said such a vote is on the floor agenda for this week, but as senators left Thursday afternoon for the weekend, there was still no final agreement on any bipartisan package.

Sen. Rick Scott asks FBI to brief senators on Russian voter hacking in Florida
The FBI confirmed to Scott that two counties had voter files accessed by Russia ahead of the presidential election in 2016, he said

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks with reporters on Feb. 14, 2019. Scott said the FBI confirmed to him on Wednesday that two counties had voter files accessed by Russia ahead of the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:36 p.m. | Sen. Rick Scott has asked the FBI to provide a briefing to any interested senators on Russian intrusion into Florida voter files.

Scott, who was the governor of Florida, said the FBI confirmed to him on Wednesday that two counties had voter files accessed by Russia ahead of the presidential election in 2016.

Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell eulogize Richard Lugar with Capital Challenge memories
Vice president and Senate majority leader were among dignitaries in Indianapolis for Lugar’s funeral on Wednesday

The late Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., was a regular participant in the ACLI Capital Challenge (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo).

It was fitting that Sen. Richard G. Lugar’s funeral service would take place the same day as the ACLI Capital Challenge race, and both Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took full advantage of the fortuitous timing.

Pence, the former Indiana governor and congressman, and McConnell, from neighboring Kentucky, were among the dignitaries who made the trip to Indianapolis for the Wednesday afternoon funeral. The group traveling aboard Air Force Two included other lawmakers, as well as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.