Niels Lesniewski

Bernie Sanders labor plan would let federal workers strike
Presidential contender unveils plan ahead of Iowa AFL-CIO trip

Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a new labor plan Wednesday that includes a proposal to let federal employees go on strike.

“Under current law, federal employees are not guaranteed the same labor rights as workers in the private sector. While they have the ability to unionize, they are prohibited from going on strike,” a plan summary said. “Under this plan, federal workers would have the right to strike.”

Elizabeth Warren is blasting Wells Fargo over fees, again
Latest criticism is over fees charged to allegedly closed accounts

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has another complaint about Wells Fargo.

This week, the Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate is taking issue with the bank allegedly charging fees on accounts that customers had believed to be closed.

Attorney general installs new leadership at Federal Bureau of Prisons
Moves follow suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in prison custody

Attorney General William Barr has replaced the leadership of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Barr is appointing Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to the position of director. Barr previously appointed her to the same post in 1992, when he was last the attorney general.

Suicide prevention hotline to get three-digit phone number
FCC chairman says he will move ahead following legislation, staff report

It should soon be easier to call a suicide prevention hotline.

The Federal Communications Commission plans to move forward with establishing a three-digit number for the federally-backed hotline.

Schumer: Use funds to fight gun violence instead of for the border wall
New York Democrat wants $5 billion to go to CDC research, Homeland Security and FBI programs

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is preparing to formally request that the $5 billion Trump’s administration would like spent on a border wall go instead to countering gun violence.

“The dual scourges of gun violence and violent white supremacist extremism in this country are a national security threat, plain and simple, and it’s time the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress started treating them as such,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “Now Republicans and this administration need to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to addressing gun violence and stopping the rise of domestic terrorism, especially stemming from white supremacy.”

Giffords group launches pro-background check ads focused on Gardner, McConnell
First ads in a new roughly $750,000 buy hit airwaves this weekend

“Instead of making lesson plans, I’m making active-shooter plans.”

That’s what a woman identified as a Colorado schoolteacher named Jody says in a new issue ad campaign starting this weekend by the gun control advocacy group named for former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The group’s aim is to push Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner to back a House-passed gun purchase background check bill.

Locking out ‘Team Mitch’ could cost Twitter
Decision by Republican campaign committees to withhold ad dollars from Twitter could have a tangible effect

The decision by Republican campaign committees to withhold ad dollars from Twitter could have a tangible effect.

The Republican National Committee, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign as well as the House and Senate GOP campaign committees took that step in response to the social media platform’s temporary lockout of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account.

With Iowa State Fair ahead, 2020 Democrats pitch to rural America
A trio of presidential hopefuls rolled out new plans Wednesday

As Democratic presidential hopefuls get ready to visit the soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, they’re announcing big plans for investments in rural America.

Three senators seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president are the latest candidates with plans they hope will appeal to rural Iowa caucusgoers. Those include proposals from two members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Emotional Portman hopes for consensus on combating gun violence after Dayton, El Paso mass shootings
Ohio Republican, at the Capitol on Tuesday, appeared shaken by deaths

Ohio Republican Rob Portman said Tuesday that after seeing blood being cleaned from sidewalks in Dayton, he hopes his fellow senators can emerge from their predictable partisan corners to find agreement on more legislation to address gun violence.

Portman pointed to working on “red flag” grants to encourage states to  keep firearms from individuals with mental health challenges as perhaps the most immediate step. Asked about an expanded background check bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, Portman said, “I think we should look at everything.”

Gun safety theatrics could come to Congress during Tuesday pro forma sessions
Neither House nor Senate expected to return any time soon

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Democratic lawmakers itching for action on gun safety legislation will get their first chances to make some noise on Tuesday.

That’s when the House and Senate are scheduled to begin holding pro forma sessions, with no legislative business expected in either chamber until a full week after Labor Day in September. However, there’s a long history of members of Congress using the brief moments when the floors of the two chambers open for business during the August recess to engage in a bit of theater.

McConnell fractures shoulder at home in Kentucky
Senate majority leader treated and released from a local hospital

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fractured a shoulder Sunday morning.

“This morning, Leader McConnell tripped at home on his outside patio and suffered a fractured shoulder. He has been treated, released, and is working from home in Louisville,” spokesman David Popp said in a statement.

Road ahead: Senate has plenty to do before August recess jet fumes
McConnell wants to clear budget deal, confirm nominations before recess

The Senate’s August recess jet fumes are getting stronger, but there is still an abundance of chamber business to take care of this week.

The House is in recess until Sept. 9, but the Senate needs to clear the bipartisan budget caps agreement that would also suspend the debt limit into the summer of 2021, following House action last week.

Dan Coats leaving post as Director of National Intelligence
Trump says he will appoint Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe as Coats’ replacement

Dan Coats is leaving the post as Director of National Intelligence on August 15, President Donald Trump announced Sunday.

“I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly,” Trump tweeted.

Donald Trump, who doesn’t drink, prefers the ‘look’ of American wine
President is considering imposing tariffs on French wine over country’s new digital tax

President Donald Trump said Friday that while he is a well-documented teetotaler, he prefers the appearance of American wines to their French counterparts.

“I’ve always liked American wines better than French wines, even though I don’t drink wine. I just like the way they look,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Friday.

Election infrastructure bill remains stalled as Senate Intelligence panel releases first volume of Russia report
Sen. James Lankford still wants to work on paper trail legislation

As the Senate Intelligence Committee was releasing the first volume of its comprehensive report into Russian election interference in 2016, a Republican senator was making clear that he still wants to get support for encouraging states to have paper audit trails and to boost the ability of election officials to get timely security clearances.

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who has been working with Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, told reporters Thursday that with the 2020 primaries and caucuses just around the corner, security enhancements would be meant for the next midterms.

Next week, Senate will consider budget deal, confirm judges and two senior officials
UN ambassador and deputy secretary of Defense nominees will also make the to-do list

While House members could leave the Capitol for August recess as early as Thursday night, the Senate has work still to be done, including clearing the budget and debt limit deal and confirming 19 judicial nominations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that in addition to the judges, the Senate would be prioritizing confirmation of David Norquist to be deputy secretary of Defense and Kelly Knight Craft to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Ann Richards goes ‘backwards and in high heels’ at Arena Stage
One-woman show about former Texas governor features Jayne Atkinson of ‘House of Cards’ fame

A one-woman show now playing at Arena Stage serves as a reminder of when a Democrat could win statewide in Texas.

“Ann” is a retelling of the life and times of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, whose keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention as a relatively unknown state treasurer propelled her into the spotlight. Alternating between barbed one-liners and folksy charm, she became just the second woman — and the last Democrat to date — to hold the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State.

Urgency of marijuana policy was on full display Tuesday
Senate Banking hearing and bills unveiled give an early look at key 2020 issue

“In short, the sky is not falling in Colorado.”

That is how Republican Sen. Cory Gardner summed up his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday morning, where he was advocating legislative action to give legal marijuana businesses access to banks and protection for banks from being viewed as money launderers under federal law for handling their money.

Debt deal moving forward with key GOP, Democratic support
Fiscal hawks blast agreement: ‘Washington has all but abandoned economic sanity’

Updated 7:10 p.m. | Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Senate Republicans Tuesday to try to shore up support for a two-year spending caps and debt limit accord, amid bipartisan concern over tacking another $324 billion onto deficits — a figure that could more than quintuple when spread out over a decade.

Mnuchin sought to reassure Republicans at their weekly policy lunch that President Donald Trump in fact supports the deal he reached Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby and others.

Kamala Harris, Jerry Nadler bill would decriminalize marijuana, expunge most convictions
Legislation set to be unveiled on Tuesday would include a 5-percent tax on cannabis products

Changing marijuana policy needs to go beyond decriminalization to the expunging of old criminal convictions, according to two key Democratic lawmakers.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York and California Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 White House hopeful, have come together on new legislation designed to address both sides of the equation. The legislation is likely to serve as a key marker heading into next year’s elections.