Niels Lesniewski

Senate’s Radical Reasonable Caucus Finds Their Moment
Will a group of 20 senators be able to gain influence?

In a Senate environment where party discipline has been the norm, a group of senators that lobbied leadership to accept a resolution to end the government shutdown Monday now has leverage, if they decide to use it.

“One of the good outcomes is that we had a group of 20 … that built a lot of trust with each other. So it could create an environment, at least over the next month or so, where some really positive things happen,” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a GOP partipant said Monday. “On the Democratic side, it was necessary to have a large group of Republicans [who] were committed to try and resolve these issues.”

Senate Adjourns, Ensures Government Shutdown on Monday
McConnell offers some concessions, but no deal yet

The federal government will be shut down on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back until noon Monday what was an expected 1 a.m. vote on trying to break a filibuster of a short-term spending package.

With No Deal, Senate Heads Toward Votes at 1 a.m. Monday
McConnell says Democratic delay tactics ‘won’t work forever’

Senators were shuttling in and out of offices Saturday, but there were no breakthroughs in the effort to reopen the federal government.

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the floor late Saturday to announce plans to have the chamber back in session starting Sunday afternoon, he made clear that, at his first opportunity, he would try to hold a vote to break a filibuster of a proposal to fund the government through Feb. 8.

Flake Signals Deal to Vote on DACA Proposal
Measure could come to the Senate floor with or without Trump’s backing

Senators left the Capitol early Saturday morning hoping that an agreement hashed out after midnight would win enough support to get the votes to keep the government shutdown from extending to the workweek.

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said after the marathon vote in which a mostly Democratic group voted to block a government funding bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now agreed to put immigration legislation on the floor, with or without assurances of a signature by President Donald Trump.

Rand Paul’s Neighbor to Plead Guilty in Assault Case
Court documents highlight dispute about brush

The neighbor of Sen. Rand Paul who allegedly assaulted the Kentucky Republican while he was mowing his lawn has now signed a federal plea agreement.

The U.S. Attorney in Indianapolis made the announcement Friday. His office was assigned the case following the recusal by the U.S. Attorney in the western part of Kentucky.

Shutdown Effects Would Hit Agencies Differently
Some departments will have more employees at work than others

Federal departments and agencies were gearing up for the possibility that a shutdown would actually take place, with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney putting the odds at about 50-50 Friday morning.

The effects across the government would vary from agency to agency, in part because they have different levels of available funding and transfer authority, but Mulvaney said a partial shutdown starting Saturday would in some ways not resemble the one in 2013.

Senators Leave for the Night With No Plan to Actually Avert Shutdown
Will take some bipartisanship to even schedule a vote

It will take unanimous consent of 100 senators to keep the government from at least a brief shutdown.

The Senate adjourned after 10 p.m. Thursday, leaving less than a day in session to try to avert a funding lapse that was appearing inevitable, without votes scheduled on anything resembling a deal that could win bipartisan support.

What You Didn’t See at Dole’s Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony
 

Senior Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski had a spot in the room during former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's Congressional Gold Medal ceremony this week, and saw what the TV cameras missed — political rivals reminiscing about when Capitol Hill was less idealogically divided....
Congress Honors ‘Soldier, Legislator and Statesman’ Bob Dole
Trump, Pence and congressional leaders share tales of majority leader from Kansas

When it was Vice President Mike Pence’s turn to honor former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, he praised the Kansan for a decision he made during his 1996 run for the White House.

“There was one moment in his life that seemed for me to embody the character of this great American,” Pence said, speaking at a ceremony to present Dole with a Congressional Gold Medal.

Arizona’s Double-Barrel Rejection of President Trump’s ‘Fake News’
Flake, McCain offer defenses of the free press ahead of Trump’s awards

Arizona’s two Republican senators asserted themselves Wednesday as defenders of the free press.

Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor for a well-publicized defense of the truth, as President Donald Trump was potentially preparing for an Orwellian “fake news” award ceremony.

Key GOP Negotiators Doubt Immigration Deal Materializes This Week

A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown.

“I think we’re optimistic that we’ll get a deal. I think this week would be fairly Herculean,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters Tuesday after a meeting with staff of the No. 2 congressional leaders.

Pot Debate Latest Complication for Replacing U.S. Attorneys
Gardner has concerns about process in Colorado, which still has no nominee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions might soon find himself working with court-appointed U.S. attorneys, in part because his hard line on marijuana is throwing a wrench in the nominations process.

Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, met with the attorney general last week to voice concerns after the Justice Department reversed course on an Obama-era policy and allowed federal prosecutors wider discretion to pursue criminal charges related to marijuana — even in states that have legalized it for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Durbin Confirms Trump’s ‘Hate-Filled, Vile and Racist’ Talk
Illinois Democrat, who was in meeting, says media reports about Trump’s words have been accurate

Updated 1:08 p.m. | Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin told reporters Friday that he heard President Donald Trump make the vulgar remarks about immigrants that have been widely reported in the press and dismissed by the White House. 

The Illinois Democrat said Trump’s comments during a Thursday meeting “were hate-filled, vile and racist.”

Ahead of FISA Vote, Trump Sows Confusion
House Dems see ‘latest example’ of Trump ‘undermining’ security

President Donald Trump sent mixed signals Thursday morning about a controversial law used to collect intelligence on individuals suspected of spying on the United States just hours before the House is slated to vote on reauthorizing it. And a key privacy hawk in Congress contends the president is more in line with him than the White House lets on.

For nearly two hours, the commander in chief even broke with his own White House’s stance on whether the law should remain on the books. But in an apparent clean-up operation, Trump was forced to fire off a tweet declaring this of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: “We need it!”

Senate Leaders Announce New Committee Rosters
Ratio change gives GOP a one-seat advantage at all committtees

The full Senate is set to ratify revised committee rosters and ratios before adjourning Tuesday evening.

The changes add a Democrat to the Finance and Judiciary Committees, because each needed new Democrats to provide an across-the-board one-seat advantage for the GOP with their diminished majority.

Government Violated Law in Mysterious Cuba Injuries Case, Rubio Says
Failed to set up review board in time

Sen. Marco Rubio has accused the government of violating the law by not setting up a review after apparent sonic attacks caused mysterious injuries to personnel based at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba.

“The bottom line is: the State Department did not follow the law in setting [up an accountability review board] in the 120 day period, in my opinion,” Rubio said. “We first heard of the complaints in late 2016.”

White House Reiterates Wall Demand Ahead of Key Meeting
Sen. Graham, other lawmakers look to pair DACA with border security upgrades

Just hours before a high-stakes White House meeting with Republicans and Democrats, the Trump administration continued to hold tight to its demand that funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed southern border wall be included in a possible immigration overhaul bill.

“President Trump looks forward to meeting with bipartisan members of the House and Senate today to discuss the next steps toward achieving responsible immigration reform,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

Trump Takes McConnell’s Side in Republican Primaries
Says he does not envision backing challenges to GOP incumbents

President Donald Trump appears to have adopted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s view about Republican primaries.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, often says that, “there’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

Podcast: The Senate GOP's Math Problem
CQ on Congress, Episode 85

The Week Ahead Podcast is now CQ on Congress. New look but same great show. CQ Senate reporter, Niels Lesniewski, says the Senate Republican majority, now just one seat, will struggle to pass legislation and confirm judges in 2018.

 

Three VPs, Football Boasts and a Relief Baseball Pitcher: Not Your Normal Swearing-In Day
With Democrats Smith and Jones, GOP Senate edge now down to 51-49

The start of the second session of a Congress lacks most of the pageantry of the first, but Wednesday’s arrival of two new senators prompted some pomp and circumstance, including the rare sight of three vice presidents on the Senate floor at the same time.

Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Tina Smith of Minnesota took the oath of office from Vice President Mike Pence shortly after noon, each escorted down the chamber’s aisle by a former vice president.