Niels Lesniewski

McConnell, Mnuchin Unequivocal About Avoiding Default on the Debt
Majority leader and Treasury secretary say debt limit will be increased on time

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared without hesitation Monday that Congress will raise the debt limit come September.

“There is zero chance — no chance — we won’t raise the debt ceiling. No chance. America is not going to default, and we’ll get the job done in conjunction with the secretary of the Treasury,” the Kentucky Republican said, appearing alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Russia Portfolio Comes in Handy for Senate Staffer
Shaheen aide Naz Durakoglu comes via Atlantic Council, State Dept., House

Naz Durakoglu started her new job working for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in early June, shortly after the New Hampshire Democrat had pushed to add Russia sanctions to an Iran sanctions bill as it moved through the Foreign Relations Committee.

But after Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee said he would move ahead with a bipartisan effort to tighten sanctions against Moscow, Shaheen withdrew her amendments. The timing, though, put Durakoglu, as a senior foreign policy adviser to Shaheen, in the middle of discussions about how to respond to Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.

McCain’s Office Slams Wisconsin Republican for Tumor Remarks
Ron Johnson hinted at reasons for McCain’s health care vote

Sen. John McCain’s office is hitting back at Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for suggesting that McCain’s brain tumor influenced his recent health care vote.

Johnson made the remarks speaking on talk radio in Chicago, as reported by CNN.

Trump Piles on McConnell Criticism
Gripes follow call from Sean Hannity for majority leader to quit

Updated 2:43 p.m. | President Donald Trump has joined the backlash against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over comments the Kentucky Republican made back home earlier this week on tempering expectations about what Congress can and cannot achieve.

“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” the president tweeted Wednesday afternoon from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Cautious Congressional Response to Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’ With North Korea
McCain says he doesn’t always listen to Trump’s words

President Donald Trump’s warning of “fire and fury” in response to additional provocations by North Korea is not being received lightly by senior lawmakers.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said Tuesday at his golf club in Bedminster Township, N.J., according to the White House pool covering Trump. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Heller Gets Challenge From the Right on ‘Fox & Friends’
Danny Tarkanian’s announcement might have been targeted at Trump

Republican Danny Tarkanian might have had an audience of one for his announcement that he is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller: President Donald Trump.

Tarkanian said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday that the incumbent hasn’t been supportive of Trump’s agenda, calling him a “Never-Trumper.”

Pence’s History as Media Shield Advocate May Be at Odds With Justice Department
Vice president spoke of importance of free press and the First Amendment

“The Constitution of the United States reads in part that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the press. This freedom represents a bedrock of our democracy by ensuring the free flow of information to the public. But, sadly, this freedom is under attack.”

Those were the words of a Republican congressman from Indiana, spoken on the House floor on March 14, 2006, proposing federal legislation to protect journalists, or a media shield.

Blumenthal Says He Won’t Be ‘Bullied’ By ‘Slurs’ From Trump
Connecticut Democrat says he will keep talking about Mueller

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he will not be thrown off from talking about legislation designed to insulate special counsel Robert S. Mueller III by what the Connecticut Democrat called “slurs” being hurled at him on Twitter by President Donald Trump.

Mueller is overseeing the investigation of efforts by Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, as well as of an expanding web of related activity that may prove criminal in nature.

Senators Seek to Protect Mueller From Trump
Work will take place to reconcile two bills over recess

What’s the best way to keep President Donald Trump from firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? Senators and their staffs on both sides of the aisle will be trying to figure that out over the next few weeks.

Sen. Chris Coons hopes lawmakers will come together quickly to craft a bill to provide Mueller with some insulation from Trump. The Delaware Democrat is the lead co-sponsor on a bill introduced by North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis that would create a right of action for a special counsel to seek legal recourse in the event of a firing.

Stripping Health Care Benefits From Lawmakers Gets More Complicated
Trump nominee to lead the OPM withdraws from consideration

The man who could act on President Donald Trump’s behalf to slash health care benefits for members of Congress does not want the job.

Trump’s nomination of George Nesterczuk to be director of the Office of Personnel Management was withdrawn Wednesday, according to a formal notification sent to the Senate.

Why Five Democrats Voted Against Confirming the New FBI Director
Reasons include Trump, ‘Bridgegate’ and warrantless surveillance

Five Senate Democrats who voted against Christopher Wray’s confirmation as FBI director had all offered reasons why by Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren focused on questions about Wray’s independence from President Donald Trump.

Democrats Tee Up ‘Better Deal’ Trade Pitch
Proposal includes ‘shame’ list for outsourcers

Democrats want to set up a new organization to review the effects of foreign purchases of U.S. companies for economic consequences.

The so-called American Jobs Security Council would operate similar to the existing Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which makes headlines occasionally when it intervenes in foreign efforts to invest in U.S. interests because of national security concerns.

Senate Looks Ahead to Tax, Debt Limit Debates After Recess
McConnell predicts reconciliation process for tax overhaul

By NIELS LESNIEWSKI and JOE WILLIAMS

Tuesday might not be the last time the Senate leaders address reporters before departing for August recess, but their messages were already setting the stage for September.

Flake Reflects on the Rise of Trump in New Book
Arizona Republican regrets his 2008 vote against bank bailout

In Donald Trump’s America, you might never expect a Republican senator to freely admit to a history of harboring undocumented immigrants.

But that’s effectively what Sen. Jeff Flake has done, recalling his pre-political life in farming and ranching in northern Arizona in a new book “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle” released Tuesday by Random House.

Trump Threats to Lawmakers’ Health Care Face Complications
Issues include lack of OPM chief, threat to staffers

President Donald Trump is making threats on congressional health insurance benefits, but the effort may face unexpected complications.

Trump tweeted Monday that the 2010 health care law is “hurting people,” and insurance companies and lawmakers should share in that pain. With respect to lawmakers, he asked, “why should Congress not be paying what public pays?”

Trump Threatens Congressional Health Insurance Benefits
Tweet may be prelude to rescinding employer contribution for members

President Donald Trump is considering stripping the employer contribution for health insurance away from members of Congress.

While the Trump White House has previously declined numerous requests from Roll Call to weigh in on the possibility, the president took to his favorite social media platform Saturday to make the threat himself.

Rand Paul Wants AUMF Debate With Defense Authorization
Kentucky Republican objected to quick work on McCain’s bill

All eyes were on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s key vote signaling the collapse of the Republican health care bill early Friday morning, but the longtime GOP senator also faced frustration over a delay in turning to the defense authorization bill.

Sen. Rand Paul blocked quick action on the measure, wanting to ensure debate on rolling back authorizations for the use of military force enacted early in the George W. Bush administration.

Some GOP Skepticism of Sending Obamacare Repeal to Conference
Questions about what the ‘skinny’ bill would produce

Several senators are expressing skepticism about the emerging Republican plan to pass a bill rolling back “skinny” pieces of the 2010 health care law and then hope for a broader agreement in a conference committee with the House.

Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, who was one of the senators who came out against the broader Senate health care bill, told Roll Call he is concerned about entering a conference without a real Senate position.

Congress to Send Russia, Iran, North Korea Sanctions Bill to Trump
Measure expected to win overwhelming support in the Senate, again

A bill to provide for new sanctions against three adversaries of the United States will be making its way to President Donald Trump’s desk before the August recess, after all.

House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement late Wednesday to get the sanctions legislation against Iran, Russia and North Korea through the Senate without further amendment, avoiding a potential clash with the House.

Ron Johnson Targets Member Health Care in Obamacare Debate
Seeks vote on a plan reminiscent David Vitter quest

Sen. Ron Johnson is reviving a proposal to strip federal contributions for lawmakers’ health insurance on the exchanges set up by the 2010 health care law.

The Republican from Wisconsin filed the amendment to the pending health care reconciliation measure on Tuesday, and speaking Wednesday on a Milwaukee-based radio show, Johnson sounded intent on getting a vote as part of the process of unlimited amendments known as the vote-a-rama.