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Niels Lesniewski


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 Patent Bill Gets White House Plaudits

May 1, 2015

President Barack Obama wants to see a bipartisan patent overhaul reach his desk before the end of 2015, and the White House is responding favorably to the new Senate bill introduced this week.

'Poison Pill' Amendments Threaten Iran Bill

April 30, 2015

Sen. Tom Cotton is insisting on simple majority votes on contentious amendments to legislation to provide congressional review of any final nuclear deal with Iran, apparently stymieing the possibility of moving forward, at least for now.

The Arkansas Republican sought to line up a pair of amendments that supportive Democratic senators have said could cause them to remove support for the bill. One of those, sponsored by Cotton, would require Iran to allow inspectors full access to suspicious sites. The other, led by Florida Republican Marco Rubio, would require Tehran to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

"I think some of the tactics that are now being deployed are going to make it much more difficult for us to be able to proceed in an orderly way," Foreign Relations ranking member Benjamin L. Cardin said.

Corker Predicts No More Amendments to Iran Bill (Updated) (Video)

April 30, 2015

Updated 2:58 p.m. | Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker predicted there was no hope for additional amendments to his bill to provide for review of the Iran agreement — and that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s next step would be to limit debate.

Senators Renew Bipartisan Assault on Patent Trolls

April 29, 2015

Updated 3:49 p.m. | Patent trolls beware: This time it’s different.

Budget Resolution Clears Corker Hurdle

April 29, 2015

Sen. Bob Corker has signed off on the conference report for the fiscal 2016 budget resolution, clearing an obstacle for House and Senate Republicans to move forward.

Paul Seeks to Block FCC on Net Neutrality

April 29, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul has launched an effort that could get a bill to the White House to upend net-neutrality efforts.

Senate Democrats Warn GOP on Appropriations (Video)

April 28, 2015

Even before GOP lawmakers filed a budget resolution conference report, Senate Democratic Conference Chairman Charles E. Schumer put down a marker.

Iran Bill Sponsors Face Down Amendments

April 28, 2015

As senators look to start processing amendments to the bipartisan bill ensuring congressional review of an Iran nuclear deal, the bill’s level of support has reached a magic number of sorts.

Democrats Fire Warning Shots Over GOP Budget

April 28, 2015

Even before GOP lawmakers had filed a budget resolution conference report, Senate Democratic Conference Chairman Charles E. Schumer was firing a warning shot about the next step in the process of funding the federal government.

“Republicans should be warned right here, right now, Democrats are not going to help you pass appropriations bills that lock-in senseless, automatically triggered cuts that hurt the middle class,” the New York Democrat said. “Instead, we’ll be eager to work with our Republican colleagues to prevent those cuts from taking effect and restoring both defense spending and vital middle class funding in an even way, one dollar for defense, one dollar for the middle class.”

Schumer made the statement just after rattling off a list of provisions Democrats oppose in the Republican budget blueprint, after the ink was supposed to have been dry, but before it actually was.

New Front Opens in 'Fast-Track' Trade Fight

April 28, 2015

There’s no shortage of liberal opposition to President Barack Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but a more serious threat to the administration’s pro-trade alliance with Republicans might come from those who want to tackle the perpetually thorny issue of currency manipulation.

Durbin: 'Tax and Spend' for Medical Research

April 28, 2015

Sen. Richard J. Durbin returned to his alma mater Monday evening for a lecture that lived up to its name.

Mitch McConnell Records Kentucky Derby Radio Introduction

April 27, 2015

Many Kentucky radio listeners will be hearing a familiar voice at the start of coverage of the Run for the Roses.

Over an instrumental version of "My Old Kentucky Home," Louisville-based 840 WHAS is featuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introducing the news radio station’s coverage of this year’s 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.

“This is Sen. Mitch McConnell. Welcome to one of our commonwealth’s most treasured traditions, filled with colorful pageantry, remarkable speed and stunning surprises. It’s the first jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown,” McConnell says in the recorded promo. “The Kentucky Derby on NewsRadio 840, WHAS.”

Iran Bill Supporters Seek to Avoid Contentious Amendments

April 24, 2015

Supporters of the Senate’s Iran legislation know they have to do a delicate dance on the floor.

Leahy, Paul Honored Together as 'Constitutional Champions'

April 23, 2015

Looking only at voting records, you wouldn’t expect Rand Paul and Patrick J. Leahy to share an award of any kind.

Tough Talk on Trade Between Wyden and Reid

April 22, 2015

Sen. Ron Wyden did not sound surprised by Minority Leader Harry Reid’s call Tuesday for him to slow down progress on Trade Promotion Authority legislation that was being marked up Wednesday afternoon.

A Possible Path Forward on Patriot Act

April 22, 2015

As the Senate worked its way out of two legislative knots Wednesday, passing a human-trafficking bill, 99-0, and setting up a Thursday vote on the long-delayed nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the path to reauthorizing surveillance activities would be a lot easier if the White House engaged Congress sooner rather than later.

State Department IG Tells Senate He Needs Own Network (Video)

April 21, 2015

Can an inspector general be truly independent while department officials have access to his computer network?

Harry Reid a 'Hell No' on Obama's Fast Track Push (Video)

April 21, 2015

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday his advice to Sen. Ron Wyden is to “slow down” so-called “fast-track” trade legislation.

State Department IG Requests Separate IT Network

April 21, 2015

In testimony before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing Tuesday, State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick told the committee that along with needing better communication about potential criminal activity by department officials, he also needed an independent computer network.

Linick said while there was no indication of State Department personnel looking into sensitive files on his computer, the possibility existed due to the shared network. Linick highlighted the sensitivity pertaining to investigation materials on whistleblowers as one example.

“They’re not open, but if an administrator wanted to — and again, we don’t have evidence of this — if an administrator wanted to, he or she could come on to our system,” Linick said. “They come on to our system as it is with security patching and all, for legitimate reasons."

Dick Durbin, Honky Tonk Man (Video)

April 21, 2015

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said he would personally be willing to meet with actual or prospective Democratic challengers to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Rand Paul Calls GOP Hawks Obama 'Lap Dogs'

April 21, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday he thinks fellow Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are, in effect, “lap dogs” for President Barack Obama.

Legislative Deadlines for Presidential Candidates to Watch

April 21, 2015

There’s no shortage of deadlines in 2015 that will put the national media spotlight on Capitol Hill, even as much of the attention is on shooting ranges, ballrooms and diners in early presidential states.

Senate Reaches Trafficking Deal, Teeing Up Loretta Lynch Confirmation (Updated) (Video)

April 21, 2015

Updated 10:41 a.m. | Loretta Lynch can expect to be confirmed as the next attorney general within a day or two after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a deal on a sex trafficking bill that had been tied up in abortion politics for weeks.

Senate Strikes Deal on Trafficking Bill, Loretta Lynch

April 21, 2015

Loretta Lynch can expect to be confirmed as the next attorney general within a day or two, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a deal on a human-trafficking bill that had been tied up in abortion politics for weeks.

“There have been good-faith negotiations to resolve the impasse that has prevented the Senate from moving forward on this bill,” McConnell said. “And now, I’m glad we can say there is a bipartisan proposal that will allow us to complete action on this important legislation so we can provide help to the victims who desperately need it.”

“As soon as we finish the trafficking bill, as I’ve indicated for some time now, we’ll move to the president’s nominee for attorney general—hopefully in the next day or so,” he said.

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