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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:

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.

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.

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.

Reid, McConnell to Testify at Campaign Finance First Amendment Hearing

May 31, 2014

Next week’s Senate Judiciary hearing on campaign finance and the First Amendment will be getting some extra firepower.

Senate Appropriators Plan Funds for DOJ Probe of VA

May 30, 2014

The Senate’s top appropriators plan to provide resources for the Justice Department to investigate the health scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee Diverge on Gay Marriage's Fate in Court

May 29, 2014

A former Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is calling legal gay marriage inevitable, while his home-state colleague is not so sure.

Justice Department Already Involved in VA Scandal

May 29, 2014

An increasing number of lawmakers have called for a federal criminal probe of misconduct at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, but at some level, federal prosecutors are already involved.

In VA Scandal, More Senators Call for Shinseki Ouster, FBI Investigation (Updated)

May 28, 2014

Updated 5:47 p.m. | The snowball of senators and Senate candidates calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign turned into an avalanche Wednesday afternoon.

White House Counsel to Review Naming of CIA Chief in Kabul

May 27, 2014

The White House will conduct an internal review of the circumstances leading to Sunday’s disclosure to members of the White House press corps of the identity of a CIA station chief.

Schumer's Newest Foe: 'Phrostee' Alcoholic Slushy Drink (Video)

May 27, 2014

Sen. Charles E. Schumer is once again going after the marketing of an alcoholic beverage to children.

Vietnam Veterans Group Joins Outrage Over Burr's VA Letter

May 27, 2014

A group representing veterans from the Vietnam War has joined several other organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in blasting Sen. Richard M. Burr’s recent open letter to veterans.

Obama Plans to Keep Troops in Afghanistan Until 2016 (Updated) (Video)

May 27, 2014

Updated 3:26 p.m. | President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he intends to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but would pull out most of the remaining forces by the end of 2016.

Burr: VFW, DAV More Outraged by Letter Than by VA Scandal

May 25, 2014

The Memorial Day weekend sparring between veterans groups and the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in the wake of the VA scandal is continuing.

Sanders to Introduce New VA Accountability Bill

May 23, 2014

The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee appears to be rejecting a House-passed bill that would grant authority to the VA secretary to fire a variety of senior officials.

Judge Orders Conyers on Primary Ballot (Updated)

May 23, 2014

Updated 4:47 p.m. | A federal judge has ruled that 25-term Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. shall appear on his party’s Aug. 5 primary ballot.

Mikulski Concerned by National Weather Service IT Failure

May 23, 2014

Thursday’s National Weather Service computer outage has the attention of the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill Puts Guantanamo on Path to Close

May 22, 2014

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted Thursday to give President Barack Obama the authority to close the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unless veto-proof majorities in Congress object.

Reid Signals Quick Action as Appropriators Back VA Firing Authority

May 22, 2014

Updated 2 p.m. | Senate Appropriators have signaled bipartisan support for granting the secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to terminate senior personnel for poor performance, and the Senate’s top Democrat is open to it, as well.

McConnell Returns to Capitol, Makes 2014 GOP Unity Pitch

May 21, 2014

A routine media stakeout in the Ohio Clock Corridor on the second floor of the Capitol took on a decidedly campaign feel as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell returned to D.C. after a primary victory back home.

The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that after the last few elections, Republicans are growing unified as they head into November following a series of primary victories for the establishment Tuesday night.

In Wake of VA Scandal, McCain Proposes Private Health Option for Veterans

May 21, 2014

Sen. John McCain accused President Barack Obama of attempting “damage control” Wednesday when he made a statement about the a scandal at the VA involving allegations of manipulated wait time reports.

McConnell Returns to Capitol, Makes 2014 GOP Unity Pitch (Video)

May 21, 2014

A routine media stakeout in the Ohio Clock Corridor on the second floor of the Capitol took on a decidedly campaign feel as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell returned to D.C. after a primary victory back home.

Paul, Wyden Clash Over Barron Nomination, Use of Drones Abroad

May 21, 2014

Sen. Rand Paul contested the nomination of David J. Barron to be a First Circuit appeals court judge as well as the Obama administration's use of drones for targeted killings of Americans during a 31-minute floor speech Wednesday.

The Kentucky Republican faced an objection to a unanimous consent request to delay Barron's confirmation, and following Paul's morning remarks Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., took the floor in support of Barron while criticizing the Obama administration for its resistance to providing Congress with memos outlining its legal basis for carrying out acts of war.

"It's unfortunate that it took Mr. Barron's nomination for the Justice Department to make these memos public," Wyden said. "I believe that every American has the right to know when their government believes it is allowed to kill them."

The Senate later voted to limit debate on Barron's nomination to a seat on the Boston-based court, 52-43.

Paul: McConnell Win 'Consistent With the Tea Party'

May 21, 2014

Sen. Rand Paul is dismissing the idea that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Republican primary victory in Kentucky Tuesday night was a defeat for the tea party movement.

Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesn't Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)

May 21, 2014

Updated 3:15 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul wore comfortable shoes to work today, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to hold the floor for hours.

Reid Open to VA Amendments on Defense Bill

May 20, 2014

As Senators begin to discuss legislation designed to remedy the controversy engulfing the Department of Veterans Affairs, it isn't immediately clear when they might have a venue for that debate.

On Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate would not legislate on the fiscal 2015 Military Construction-VA spending bill, but then volunteered that a VA health debate might happen in connection with the defense authorization bill, which is currently being marked up by the Armed Services Committee.

"We would be happy to try to working something out on the authorization, which my understanding is that Sen. Levin's going to work on that again this week, hopefully report it out really soon," Reid said, referring to Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

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