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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:

Lindsey Graham's War Money Plan Wins Approval (Updated)

March 19, 2015

Updated 7:03 p.m. | The Senate Budget Committee’s agreed to boost funding in the budget plan for defense for the next fiscal year by $38 billion.

Cruz Launching Sanctions Missile Amid Rumors of Iran Deal

March 19, 2015

Just days before a deadline for an update on a potential announcement of a nuclear agreement with Iran, one Republican senator likely to run for president is renewing a sanctions push.

Klobuchar's Office Says Aide Knew of Hyde Language in Trafficking Bill

March 18, 2015

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office has conceded that a Democratic staffer was aware of the contested language in a bipartisan bill to combat sex trafficking that’s been stuck on the Senate floor.

Graham, McCain Want More War Money in Senate Budget

March 18, 2015

Just as Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming was unveiling the Senate’s fiscal 2016 budget blueprint, a fellow Republican on the committee was announcing plans to try to increase the allowed defense spending.

Harry Reid Thanks Rand Paul for Eye Injury Advice

March 18, 2015

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid thanked Sen. Rand Paul Wednesday for his medical advice about his ongoing recovery from the New Year’s Day accident that caused serious eye damage.

The public expression of gratitude from Reid came on the Senate floor, while the Kentucky Republican and prospective presidential candidate was presiding over the chamber. The Nevada Democrat recalled for those watching the well-documented exercise accident that led to the significant facial and eye injuries that have forced Reid to don sunglasses often in the aftermath.

“During this period of time, the presiding officer, who by the way is a medical doctor, an ophthalmologist, has been so kind and thoughtful and considerate in visiting with me, giving me encouragement and some expert advice as to what he’s seen in the past,” Reid said.

Harry Reid Thanks Rand Paul for Eye Injury Advice (Video)

March 18, 2015

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid thanked Sen. Rand Paul Wednesday for his medical advice about the ongoing recovery from the New Year’s Day accident that caused serious eye damage.

Schumer: Republicans 'Think They’re in the Minority'

March 17, 2015

With the Senate deadlocked over an anti-human trafficking bill and a confirmation vote for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, Democrats again hammered Republicans at their weekly news conference Tuesday for their inability to govern.

“Hello our Republican friends: You’re in the majority — they still think they’re in the minority,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer said. “They’re putting their own poison pills in their own bill. It’s time to start governing.”

GOP Senator: Harry Reid Doesn't 'Like to Vote on Issues'

March 17, 2015

Senate Republicans continued to rail on Democrats for holding up human trafficking legislation at their weekly news conference Tuesday, after the Senate earlier in the day failed to invoke cloture to limit debate on the measure.

“Here’s what I really think: Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues don’t like to vote on issues,” Sen. Roger Wicker said. "This was true in the last term of Congress, and Harry Reid led his caucus off the cliff in so doing. What do you do if you’re in the minority and you still don’t want to take votes? You can’t fill up the amendment tree because you’re no longer in the majority.”

Start Preparing Now for the Budget Vote-A-Rama

March 17, 2015

This night is not like all other nights.

McConnell's Dreams of New Senate Dashed for Now (Video)

March 17, 2015

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s best-laid plans for a Senate renaissance have so far fallen flat — and the gridlock is starting to wear on his conference.

A New Delay for Loretta Lynch? (Video)

March 15, 2015

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that he doesn’t plan on turning the Senate’s attention to the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general until resolving a stalemate over anti-human trafficking legislation.

Little Hope for Bipartisanship With Lynch, Budget Ahead

March 13, 2015

The sour start to the new Senate’s year appears likely to continue — with the unexpected partisan blowup over a human trafficking bill and its abortion provision seeming to end the last chance for a broad, bipartisan vote before the recess at the end of the month.

Ben Cardin Weighs in on Maryland Senate Race

March 12, 2015

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., pledged to remain “neutral” in the Democratic primary to succeed his retiring colleague, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

The Two Sides of Ron Johnson's Agenda

March 12, 2015

Sen. Ron Johnson said Thursday he doesn’t plan on holding “show trials” in his role as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In Senate Hallway, Tracker Presses Elizabeth Warren About Email (Video)

March 11, 2015

Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn’t respond to a question in a Dirksen hallway Wednesday related to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of personal email during her time as secretary of State.

Alaska, Hawaii Senators Seek Exemption From Higher Security Fees for Their States

March 11, 2015

Three senators from Alaska and Hawaii are pushing to exempt flights within their states from higher security fees.

Reid: No Amendments Until GOP Strips Abortion Language (Video) (Updated)

March 11, 2015

Updated 5:18 p.m. | Legislation to combat human trafficking appears sure to die on the Senate floor.

Senate Trio Launches Medical Marijuana Effort

March 10, 2015

It isn’t every day that a child can steal the show from three of the Senate’s most visible members.

Senate Democrats Cry Foul Over Abortion Language in Trafficking Bill

March 10, 2015

Senate Democrats slammed Republicans on Tuesday for abortion language included in an anit-human trafficking bill, which they claimed was added without their knowledge, while threatening to derail the ostensibly noncontroversial bill.

“We’re on the bill. And these provisions, my caucus did not know about them. You can blame it on staff, blame it on whoever you want to blame it on, but we didn’t know it was in the bill,” Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday. “The bill will not come off this floor as long as that language is in the bill.”

Cornyn: Senators Knew About Abortion Provisions in Trafficking Bill

March 10, 2015

Majority Whip John Cornyn on Tuesday pushed back against Senate Democrats who claimed they were unaware of language broadening the scope of the prohibition of federal funding on abortion, saying it was "untrue" Democrats were unaware of the language.

"Some of the suggestions being made now that there were provisions in the legislation that people didn’t know about are simply untrue. That presupposes that none of their staff briefed their senators on what was in the legislation, that nobody read a 68-page bill and that senators would vote for a bill, much less co-sponsor it without reading it, and knowing what’s in it,” Cornyn said. “None of that strikes me as plausible.”

Senate Faces Trust Breakdown Over Abortion (Updated) (Video)

March 10, 2015

Updated 6:12 p.m. | Abortion politics — and an emerging trust gap between Democrats and Republicans — threatened to derail the ostensibly noncontroversial human trafficking bill on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Paul, Booker and Gillibrand Set to Unveil Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana

March 9, 2015

A bipartisan trio of senators has planned a Tuesday rollout for legislation to remove federal legal barriers to the use of medical marijuana.

Joe Biden Plays a Home Game at Firefighters Conference

March 9, 2015

Decades ago, a young Democrat running for Senate said that in Delaware, there are really three political parties: “Democrats, Republicans and firefighters.”

Senate Schedule Changed After Iran Vote Delay

March 9, 2015

With the House out of town this week, the Senate will be the focal point on Capitol Hill, and there’s no shortage of activity ahead.

Democrats Blast Cotton, GOP Over Open Letter to Iran (Video)

March 9, 2015

With Sen. Tom Cotton presiding over the Senate, the chamber’s Democratic leaders lambasted the open letter the Arkansas Republican spearheaded with 46 other Republicans to the leadership of Iran.

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