Niels Lesniewski

Eye Doctor Tied to Robert Menendez Convicted of Fraud
The two men face separate corruption charges in New Jersey

Sen. Robert Menendez is facing a federal trial on corruption charges. With his prominent donor Salomon Melgen convicted in a separate case on Friday, Melgen might face pressure to testify against Menendez.

Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, a prominent donor to Sen. Robert Menendez, was found guilty Friday by a South Florida jury on 67 counts of fraud. 

Trump Signs CR Into Law, Avoiding Government Shutdown
Measure had easily cleared Senate and House

Updated 8:45 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Friday evening signed into law a one-week continuing resolution that gives Congress more time to work through disagreements in a massive fiscal 2017 wrapup.

The Senate earlier in the day had cleared the CR that will keep the government from a shutdown for another week.

Democrats Keep Pounding on Michael Flynn
Sheldon Whitehouse refers to Trump as 'Swamp Thing'

Democrats kept hammering former national security adviser Michael Flynn as a pre-eminent example of what they call the Trump administration’s questionable ethics. 

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called Thursday for the declassification of documents related to the activities of Flynn, a onetime head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a senior Trump campaign official.

Spending Shutdown Showdown Fizzling Out
Issues remain, but biggest fights getting knocked out ahead of deadline

The first federal funding fight of President Donald Trump’s administration might be ending not with a bang but a whimper. 

House and Senate lawmakers negotiating an omnibus bill to fund the government through the end of September had said the biggest outstanding dispute was over cost-sharing subsidy payments to insurance companies that help lower-income people afford health care under the 2010 overhaul law.

Decision Day for Avoiding a Government Shutdown?
Appropriators think that decision on another stopgap bill could come today

Appropriators think they are close to a deal to fund the government through September, but the hour is fast approaching where a stopgap might be needed to prevent a shutdown at midnight Friday.

Kentucky Rep. Harold Rogers, a former Appropriations chairman and still a senior member of the committee, described the leaders as, “within striking distance” on a fiscal 2017 spending bill.

With Trump’s Wall Off the Table, Obamacare Takes Center Stage in Shutdown Showdown
Funding for subsidies leads remaining issues

It appears President Donald Trump will settle for enhanced funding for border security instead of his signature wall.

Talks about averting a government shutdown progressed Tuesday after funding for building the wall between the U.S. and Mexico fell off the negotiating table, but lawmakers still had to work through a thicket of issues — including health care funding and family planning. They have until midnight Friday to reach a deal before government funding runs out.

Schumer Hopeful That Trump Has Caved on the Wall
Calls Trump’s comments to conservative journalists ‘really good news’

Even after President Donald Trump tweeted, “Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL,” the Senate's top Democrat is sounding optimistic that the commander-in-chief has caved.

“I want to say that it’s really good news that the president seems to be taking the wall off the table in the negotiations we’re having on an appropriations bill this week,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “It would remove the prospect of a needless fight over a poison pill proposal that members of both parties don’t support.”

Senate Intelligence Probe of Trump and Russia Grinds Forward
No one ever said it would be fast, but Democrats are frustrated about pace

Democrats may be frustrated about the pace of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but recent reports of trouble could be overblown.

A congressional source familiar with the committee’s work noted in particular the reported concerns about the Intelligence panel not having a full time staff for the investigation. The individuals detailed to work on the probe are spending roughly 95 percent of their time working on Russia’s activities in the United States, the source said.

Rob Portman's Plan to End Government Shutdown Showdowns
Revives bill to provide automatic continuing resolutions

With the risk of a government shutdown at week's end, Sen. Rob Portman is making another attempt at ending such threats once and for all.

The Ohio Republican, who led the Office of Management and Budget in the last GOP White House, will be reintroducing legislation that he has spearheaded since arriving in the Senate in 2011 that would provide for automatic continuing resolutions when Congress fails to advance appropriations bills before fiscal year funding deadlines.

Senator Plots Bill to Prevent a Repeat of United Airlines Episode
Van Hollen seeks support for ‘Customers Not Cargo’ Act

Sen. Chris Van Hollen is drafting legislation to make the forcible removal of passengers from commercial airlines illegal.

The Maryland Democrat circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday, seeking co-sponsors for what he is billing as the “Customers Not Cargo Act.”

Trump’s Chance to Fill Lower Court Vacancies Rest on Bipartisanship
Grassley is eager to begin processing judicial nominations

With Justice Neil Gorsuch safely ensconced on the Supreme Court, the Trump administration now needs to focus on more than a hundred open federal court seats. 

Of those, 48 vacancies are considered judicial emergencies. But according to statistics maintained by the administrative office of the federal courts, only one nominee has been put forward by the White House so far.

Arena Stage Honors G.K. Butterfield
North Carolina Democrat receives theater’s American Voice Award

When Arena Stage honored Rep. G.K. Butterfield before last week’s opening of “A Raisin in the Sun,” it was recognizing one of the theater’s neighbors.

“I’m right at home here in Southwest. My apartment is right across the street,” the North Carolina Democrat said. “I came to D.C. in a special election in 1994, and Southwest D.C. did not look anything like it looks right now.” 

D.C. Area Lawmakers to Colleagues: Leave Our Airport Alone
Warn against easing restrictions on long-haul flights into Reagan National Airport

Lawmakers from in and around Washington are warning their congressional colleagues against changing local airport rules in a bid to make it easier for them to get back to their home states.

A group of 15 members of Congress, led by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia and Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, along with Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., do not want to see any easing of restrictions on long-haul flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — whose Arlington, Virginia, location is significantly closer to the Capitol building than either of the other major airports in the area.

McConnell Doesn’t Think Trump Will Mess With GOP Senate Races
‘I think the administration will defer to our judgement’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not worried about President Donald Trump backing primary challengers to the Kentucky Republican’s preferred candidates.

McConnell’s political operation has not been shy about engaging in primary politics in an effort to get the best candidate on the ballot for the general election.

Senate GOP Deploys ‘Nuclear Option’ for Supreme Court
Move allows Judge Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed by simple majority

The Senate took another step Thursday toward doing away with centuries-old traditions that have distinguished it from virtually every other legislative body in the world. 

Senate Republicans moved forward with invoking the “nuclear option” Thursday to make it so a simple majority of senators can confirm any future Supreme Court justice.

Senate’s Supreme Court Nuclear Countdown Reaches Zero
Filibuster of Neil Gorsuch followed by procedural motions triggering ‘nuclear option’

The Senate’s Supreme Court doomsday clock has reached midnight.

Senators voted, 55-45, to limit debate on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court — short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster under precedents in effect as of the opening of business Thursday.

Moderates Could Get More Attention in Post-Nuclear Senate
Need to get just a simple majority for SCOTUS nominees will create new dynamic

As the Senate moves toward getting rid of the ability of 41 senators to block Supreme Court nominees, moderates could see their profiles rise in any post “nuclear option” reality with a renewed emphasis on party unity. 

Conventional wisdom is that presidents would be able to pick more stridently partisan nominees for the high court if the risk of a super majority filibuster is eliminated. But such a procedural change would also put a bigger target on moderate members of the majority.

Manchin: Pushing for a ‘Full Fix’ on Miner Benefits
December standoff brought only a stopgap deal

The debate over miner health care and pensions that brought the Senate to the precipice of a government shutdown in December might be coming back.

Coal miners from the United Mine Workers have been all over the Capitol meeting with lawmakers in recent weeks.

Senators to Trump: Stand Up to Assad, Putin
Bipartisan support for tough stand after reported use of chemical weapons by Syria

By NIELS LESNIEWSKI and BRIDGET BOWMANCQ Roll Call

Senators from both parties want to know if President Donald Trump has the gumption to stand up to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad — and by extension Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kaine: Gorsuch Filibuster is Different From Stonewalling Garland
Says he would've suggested changing nominee if Garland failed to get 60 votes

Republicans are citing the words of Sen. Tim Kaine when he was running for vice president in their arguments to change Senate precedent on advancing Supreme Court justices, but the Virginia Democrat disputes the comparison.

Kaine gave a campaign trail interview that signaled a Democratic majority might support effectively changing the rules to make sure a Democratic Supreme Court nominee — such as Merrick Garland, who was nominated by President Barack Obama — could overcome a GOP blockade.