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Niels Lesniewski

Bio:

Niels Lesniewski covers the Senate for Roll Call. He joined what is now CQ Roll Call in September 2007, hired by Roll Call for the GalleryWatch legislative tracking service that was integrated into CQ in 2009. He is known for his expertise on the peculiarities of Senate procedure.

Niels began covering the Senate for CQ in January 2010, taking the title of CQ SenateWatch editor in the summer of 2011. He has contributed to coverage of all the biggest policy stories on Capitol Hill in recent years, including the response to the 2008 financial collapse, the health care overhaul and several budget standoffs.

A Connecticut native, Niels graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a dual degree in theatre and government. Before joining CQ Roll Call, he worked for theater productions in D.C. and New England. While in college, he interned for ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Outside of work, Niels is an avid sports fan. He started attending Nationals games back when the team was among the worst in the National League and still playing at RFK Stadium.

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Stories by Niels Lesniewski:

Senate Passes Intelligence Authorization Without Debate

June 11, 2014

Wednesday was a busier day in the Senate than many people know.

Veterans Could Get $50 Billion a Year in New Health Care

June 11, 2014

As the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation designed to fix problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the amount of new spending in the measure began to clarify.

Senate Passes Emergency VA Bill at Warp Speed

June 11, 2014

The Senate had a rare burst of productivity Wednesday, passing a bipartisan bill aimed at tackling the VA health care scandal at warp speed.

Ted Cruz: Eric Cantor Defeat a Sign for GOP

June 11, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says Tuesday’s primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor should be a wake-up call for Republicans.

Appropriators Punt on Labor-HHS Spending Bill

June 11, 2014

The Senate Appropriations Committee won’t consider a typically contentious federal spending bill this week.

Senate GOP Leaders Criticize Student Loan Bill, Push VA Measure

June 10, 2014

As the Senate prepares to move forward with legislation addressing the VA scandal, GOP leaders pushed back on the student loan measure championed by Democrats and led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dissed the measure, which would allow student loans to be refinanced at lower current rates with an offsetting millionaire minimum tax. Instead, he said, the Senate should be acting on the bill to address the issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We have a bipartisan veterans bill negotiated the way we used to do business in the Senate, with members of both parties, ready to go," the Kentucky Republican said. "It was introduced yesterday. So, I hope we'll not get onto a bill going nowhere and immediately turn to the veterans bipartisan bill and see if we can address that in a bipartisan way very quickly. Maybe even finish it this week."

Reid Touts VA Bill, Student Loan Fix at Weekly News Conference

June 10, 2014

The Senate could move ahead at breakneck pace on bipartisan legislation to address the VA scandal — after just as swiftly voting to block a partisan student loan refinancing bill.

A test vote on the student loan measure championed by Democrats and led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is set for Wednesday, and despite the vocal support of Democrats and an outside public relations push, it is going nowhere fast.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said the VA bill could move ahead quickly at his weekly news conference.

"I hope we can bring it to the floor in the next 24 hours, 48 hours at the most," the Nevada Democrat said. "And if people want amendments on the veterans bill, they should be able to have amendments on it."

Ted Cruz to Push Moratorium on Guantanamo Transfers

June 10, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz plans an aggressive push to impose a moratorium on transferring detainees out of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

VA Bill Could Pass Senate by Week's End (Video)

June 10, 2014

The Senate could move ahead at breakneck pace on bipartisan legislation to address the scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs — after just as swiftly voting to block a partisan student loan refinancing bill.

Reid Praises Miss USA Winner, Regrets Missing Pageant Finale (Video)

June 9, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid missed the ending of Sunday evening’s Miss USA pageant, but Monday on the Senate floor, he offered praise for the young woman who won — a fellow Nevadan.

Reid Praises Miss USA Winner, Regrets Missing Pageant Finale

June 9, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid missed the ending of Sunday evening's Miss USA pageant, but Monday on the Senate floor, he offered praise for the young woman who won — a fellow Nevadan.

The Nevada Democrat called Nia Sanchez "gifted beyond her physical beauty."

"I'm disappointed that I kind of caved in in watching the final of the USA, Miss USA contest because Miss Nevada won, and I'd like to have seen that," Reid said. "I placed a call to her and I'll talk to her as soon as she gets out of the clouds, where I'm sure she is now. But I congratulate the newly crowned Miss USA and that is our own Nia Sanchez."

NFL Blackouts Face Sustained Drive by McCain, Blumenthal

June 4, 2014

Two senators are asking the FCC to quickly bring an end to blackouts of National Football League games and other sporting events on local TV stations. Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican John McCain are keeping up their push on the matter, since the comment period for a proposed rule ran out in March. Niels Lesniewski has more at Roll Call’s Senate blog, WGDB.

Chambliss Makes Formal Request to Release 'Taliban 5' Intel (Video)

June 4, 2014

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has formally asked President Barack Obama to release information about the five Taliban officials sent to Qatar in the prisoner swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Senators Again Push FCC to End NFL Blackouts

June 4, 2014

Two senators are pressing the Federal Communications Commission to quickly bring an end to blackouts of National Football League games and other sporting events on local TV stations.

Senate Intel Vice Chairman: 'Dangerous Precedent' Set by Bergdahl-Taliban Swap

June 3, 2014

The May 31 prisoner swap freeing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban detainees drew the ire Tuesday of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, who told reporters he was not properly notified of the transfer.

“I haven’t had a conversation with the White House on this issue in a year and a half,” the Georgia Republican said. “And if that’s keeping us in the loop, then this administration is more arrogant than I thought they were.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was notified on May 31, but did not remember whether it was before or after the public release.

Reid Says White House Did Not Violate Law in Bergdahl Prisoner Exchange

June 3, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he was informed by the White House one day before the May 31 swap of five Taliban detainees in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, later adding the exchange did not violate the law.

"I've been told no, he did not violate the law," the Nevada Democrat said in a response to a question about a 30-day statutory notification requirement. "In my own personal opinion, Guantánamo has been there far too long, and I think we should get them out of there as quick as we can. We've been held up from doing that by the Republicans not wanting them, any of them to be tried here in the United States."

Carney 2013 Statement: No Detainee Transfer 'Without Consulting With Congress'

June 3, 2014

Amid charges from Speaker John A. Boehner that the Obama administration intentionally kept the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials from Congress, new criticism emerged regarding a statement last year by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

When asked by NBC News' Kristen Welker about the potential of exchanging the five officials for Bergdahl on June 21, 2013, Carney said the White House would follow the law and consult with Congress before making any decisions.

"We would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress," Carney said. "At this time we’ve made no decisions about the transfer of detainees. And in accordance with law, we would be consulting with Congress should we make any decisions about that ... [but] on these specific issues about individual detainees, that would be a process that is done in accordance with law."

Key Senators Contest Notification of Bergdahl-Taliban Swap (Video)

June 3, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he got a heads up from the White House about the May 31 swap that led to five Taliban detainees being sent to Qatar in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Boehner Backs Hearings on Bergdahl Swap for 'Taliban 5'

June 3, 2014

Updated 4:11 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner charged the Obama administration with intentially keeping the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials from Congress ahead of time and backed a push for hearings by Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon Tuesday.

Remembering Frank Lautenberg, One Year Later

June 3, 2014

It has now been one year since the Senate lost its last sitting member to serve in World War II.

Dole, Harkin Renew Disability Treaty Push After SCOTUS Decision

June 3, 2014

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is making another push for ratification of the U.N. disabilities treaty.

Mikulski Would Like Appropriations Bills Bundled Into 'Mini or Maxi' Buses

June 2, 2014

The Senate Appropriations chairwoman is interested in seeing spending bills bundled together for floor consideration.

Ethics Complaint Over Attacks on Koch Brothers Won't Silence Harry Reid

June 2, 2014

Not long after the head of the Tea Party Patriots filed an ethics complaint against Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader’s office accused that group of doing the bidding of the Koch brothers.

VA Bills Face Familiar Senate Gauntlet (Video)

June 2, 2014

The Senate’s efforts to address the scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs could run headlong into the chamber’s usual gridlock and partisan politics.

Sanders Unveils Emergency VA Measure, Could Soon Hit Senate Floor (Video)

June 1, 2014

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders on Sunday unveiled his plan for emergency legislation to address the scandal that’s enveloped the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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