Niels Lesniewski

Rare, and unapologetic, bipartisan congressional rebuke for Trump on Syria
Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, Liz Cheney all part with president

“I think Lindsey should focus on Judiciary,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday when asked about criticism from South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of his decision to effectively side with Turkey over the Kurdish population of Syria.

Graham, who is often an ally of the president, was comparing Trump’s move to pull back U.S. forces supporting the Kurds to the Obama administration policy of withdrawal from Iraq. The senator is chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the State Department.

Senate Intelligence Committee in focus on C-SPAN and the big screen this fall
Don’t mess with the intel panel

It’s going to be a big couple of months for the Senate Intelligence Committee, both on Capitol Hill and at the box office.

Chairman Richard M. Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner find themselves once again at the epicenter of the biggest political story in Washington, tasked with leading the Senate’s review of President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine that seem all but certain to result in impeachment by the House.

African Americans top targets of 2016 Russian info warfare, Senate panel finds
Panel says campaigns, media outlets need to verify source of viral social media posts before sharing

The Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed the extent of the Russian government’s expertise at exploiting racial divisions in America.

Among the key takeaways of the second volume of the committee’s study of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election is the extent to which minorities were targeted.

Bernie Sanders cancels campaign schedule after heart procedure
Spokesman says presidential candidate had stents installed after doctors found blockage in artery

Sen. Bernie Sanders is recovering after having heart stents installed, canceling his presidential campaign events until further notice.

Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to the Democratic presidential campaign of the Vermont independent, made the announcement of the medical procedure.

McConnell says he can’t completely prevent an impeachment trial
Duration, however, is ‘a whole different matter’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated on Monday that he is bound by Senate rules to take up articles of impeachment if they are presented by the House.

“Under the Senate rules, we’re required to take it up if the House does go down that path, and we’ll follow the Senate rules,” McConnell said. “It’s a Senate rule related to impeachment that would take 67 votes to change.”

Sen. Rob Portman promotes Kevin Smith to chief of staff
Mark Isakowitz will be returning to the private sector

Sen. Rob Portman has a new chief of staff.

The Ohio Republican is elevating Kevin Smith, his deputy chief of staff and communications director, to the top job in his Senate office. Smith has worked for Portman for about three years and has been a familiar face on Capitol Hill, having previously served as communications director to Speaker John A. Boehner.

Senate Intelligence goes slow, seeks meeting with whistleblower
Panel met behind closed doors with acting intelligence director, inspector general

The Senate Intelligence Committee is just getting started on a review and inquiry into the whistleblower complaint that has rocked Capitol Hill this week.

“We’ve had a very productive first day. There’s a lot that we have to learn to proceed forward, but it’s our intention to go through that process,” Chairman Richard M. Burr told reporters after a closed hearing with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson.

Chris Murphy will still work with White House on gun background checks, even after Trump attack
‘At the same time that Trump is trying to claim that we’re walking away from legislative process on guns, his team is pulling us back in’

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy was not entirely surprised when President Donald Trump attacked him Wednesday, even as administration officials were trying to make sure the Connecticut Democrat was still open to a deal on expanded background checks for gun sales.

“I got a preview last night when Rudy Giuliani called for my impeachment, so I had a feeling that their focus may be turning to me,” Murphy quipped.

Mitt Romney not criticizing Nancy Pelosi’s handling of potential Trump impeachment over Ukraine call
Utah Republican is waiting to see where investigations lead

As some Republicans rush to declare that there are no grounds on which to impeach President Donald Trump, Sen. Mitt Romney is clearly declining to criticize Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Republican from Utah said after reading the notes of the call between then-President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine and Trump that focusing on whether there was technically a quid-pro-quo of U.S. aid in exchange for an investigation of the Biden family might be misplaced.

McConnell demurs on how Senate would handle impeachment articles

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday would not speculate about how the Senate might handle articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

At his weekly media appearance after the Senate policy luncheons, the Kentucky Republican did say that in conversations with top Trump administration officials, including the secretary of Defense and the secretary of State, he never really got an explanation why the aid to Ukraine was being held back. although he was glad the aid was eventually routed there. 

Road ahead: Senate set to pass stopgap spending, with House focus on Homeland Security and immigration
Continuing resolution should clear without a fight

The Senate needs to act this week to clear a stopgap spending bill before recessing through the end of the government’s fiscal year, but that is really the only must-pass business for either chamber.

The House passed the measure Thursday, 301-123, after resolving hangups that included a debate over assisting farmers who have seen demand for crops plummet thanks to the ongoing sparring over trade with China.

Chief Standing Bear statue welcomed in Capitol, replacing William Jennings Bryan
McCarthy: ‘as the tours are given, I promise you: you will stop here’

The prominent placement of Nebraska’s new statue of the legendary Chief Standing Bear in Statuary Hall was quite intentional.

So said Sen. Roy Blunt at an unveiling ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. The Missouri senator was introduced as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, but it was in one of his other capacities that he had shown Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., where he thought the statue should be positioned.

AG Barr takes temperature of Senate GOP on gun background checks
But there's still confusion about what President Donald Trump will ultimately support

Attorney General William Barr continued to take the temperature of Republican senators on expanding background checks Wednesday after a working document started circulating publicly.

“As the president has made clear he’s interested in exploring meaningful solutions that will actually protect people, make people safer,” the attorney general said. “And I’m up here just kicking around some ideas, getting perspectives, so I can be in a better position to advise the president. The president has made no decision yet on these issues.”

Highlighting UAW ties, Cory Booker unveils labor plan as GM workers strike
Booker’s grandfather was a union rep in Detroit and worked on an assembly line during World War II

As a General Motors strike continues for a third day, presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker is rolling out his labor policy plan.

As part of the unveiling, the Democrat from New Jersey is embracing his family’s history with organized labor, and in particular, the United Auto Workers.

Congress responds to an Olympic cry for help with oversight hammer
Sens. Moran and Blumenthal want legislative action this fall

With less than a year before the world gathers to ignite the Olympic flame in Tokyo for the 2020 summer games, two senators are pushing legislation that would provide the most significant congressional oversight in a generation of the board governing U.S. participation.

Spurred by numerous allegations from Olympic athletes of sexual abuse, a bill by Sens. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, would make it easier for Congress to effectively fire members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, or to decertify a governing body like USA Gymnastics in response to future scandals.

China trade war has Massachusetts lawmakers wanting new export markets for lobsters
China has imposed a 25 percent tariff, hurting exports from New England

New England lobster trappers have been among victims of the trade tensions between the United States and China.

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation want the Trump administration to help their home state lobster industry by seeking new export markets for the crustaceans.

Winter athletes warn Senate Democrats: Climate change is ‘melting away’ our sports
Former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter among participants at Democratic panel’s hearing

Senate Democrats heard Thursday from winter sports athletes and adventurers about the consequences of a warming climate on their careers and lives.

“I climb a great deal of glaciers and ice, and there is no doubt increased temperatures are melting away both my sport and my livelihood,” Caroline Gleich, a ski mountaineer and adventurer, told a hearing of the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Ted Cruz: A Trump deal with Democrats on gun control could lead conservatives to stay home in 2020
Depressed turnout ‘could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,’ Texas Republican says

Sen. Ted Cruz is warning that President Donald Trump making a deal with Democrats on gun legislation might cause conservative voters to stay home in 2020.

“If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights,” the Texas Republican said, “that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren.”

Appeals court nominee won’t answer questions about role in White House immigration policies
Steven Menashi says there was no agreement between White House counsel’s office and Senate Democrats to allow him to give details

President Donald Trump’s nominee for a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court based in New York told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he cannot discuss his role in developing the administration's immigration policy.

Steven Menashi, who works in the White House counsel’s office, has been among the top targets for progressive groups trying to derail Trump nominees to the federal bench, citing a variety of past writings and statements.

Senate Democrats to try blocking Trump’s border wall diversion again
Shifting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds reignites effort to force a termination vote

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer will announce that his caucus will force another floor vote to terminate President Donald Trump’s border security national emergency.

“This rises to a large and vital constitutional issue: does our country truly have checks and balances, particularly important when we have such an overreaching president? This vote will also provide a chance for Senators to prevent the president from stealing military funding from their states to foot the bill for an expensive and ineffective wall he promised Mexico would pay for,” the New York Democrat will say on the Senate floor, according to an excerpt provided to CQ Roll Call.