Niels Lesniewski

Trump Told the Senate About Niger Actions in June
Is Congress reading what they’re sent?

Senators saying they didn’t know about the presence of U.S. troops (or the number of them) in Niger suggests there might need to be a review of how Congress gets notified of such actions.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is among the lawmakers who in recent days have said on television they were unaware of the activity in Niger, despite a formal letter about U.S. forces in the region that went to Capitol Hill months ago.

Graham Pitches Minimum Wage Hike as Part of Tax Overhaul Effort
Suggests raising the wage to $10.10 with business tax cuts

One Republican senator has an unusual idea for ensuring that the effort to overhaul the tax code benefits among the poorest working Americans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham plans to propose tying an increase in the federal minimum wage to the tax overhaul package.

Senate Democrats Doubt Validity of Puerto Rico Death Toll
Reports of full morgues may signal incomplete official count, senators say

As Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló travels to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats is asking the administration about the accuracy of the island territory’s death toll.

Thirteen senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have written a new letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke expressing concern that reports about morgues at Puerto Rican hospitals being full may signal that the official tally of 48 fatalities may be incomplete.

When the Budget Resolution Isn’t About the Budget
Senators acknowledge budget is all about taxes

When Sen. John McCain removed the suspense by announcing he would vote for the budget resolution moving through the Senate, the Arizona Republican made clear the ridiculousness of the exercise.

“At the end of the day, we all know that the Senate budget resolution will not impact final appropriations,” he said in a statement. “To do that, Congress and the White House must negotiate a budget agreement that will lift the caps on defense spending and enable us to adequately fund the military.”

Johnson to Press OPM on Congressional Health Care Benefits
Homeland Security chairman wants documents on how Obama-era ruling came to be

Lawmakers and congressional staff might want to pay attention Wednesday morning when President Donald Trump’s nominees for the top two spots at the government’s personnel office face a Senate committee.

Most of the day’s attention will be on the Senate Judiciary hearing featuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson is focused on the Office of Personnel Management, and the agency’s treatment of health insurance benefits for lawmakers and congressional aides.

With One Now in the White House, Celebrities Crowd the Political Stage
It doesn’t end with Kid Rock; actors, a former Olympian and one of the ”sexiest men alive” plan to run

That led to chatter that Peyton Manning, the legendary NFL and University of Tennessee quarterback, could take the Republican senator’s Tennessee seat. But with Manning quickly quashing speculation he would make the race, Kid Rock was back on top.

“We will be scheduling a press conference in the next 6 weeks or so to address this issue amongst others, and if I decide to throw my hat in the ring for US Senate, believe me …  it’s game on mthrfkers,” his campaign website states.

Manchin to Trump: Don't Make Marino the Drug Czar
Follows reports of legislative effort Justice Department decried

The Democratic senator from a state ravaged by opioid abuse wants President Donald Trump to pull back the nomination of Rep. Tom Marino to be the nation’s drug czar.

Citing reporting from the Washington Post, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III said in a letter to Trump that he had concerns that Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, could be too favorable to the opioid industry if he were to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Judge Rules That Robert Menendez Will Face All Charges
New Jersey Democrat was seeking dismissal of corruption counts

Updated: 12:49 p.m. | A jury will hear corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez after all, leaving intact federal prosecutors’ case against the New Jersey Democrat. 

U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls said the evidence the Justice Department presented in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, appeared to meet the legal test for proving bribery under federal law, NBC News reported.

Over Ribs, Angus King Fosters Senate Collegiality
Senator talks barbecue and Maine lobster

“For the record, I don’t think this is the rib joint from ‘House of Cards.’”

That’s what Sen. Angus King said between bites of pulled pork and coleslaw inside the recently-renovated Kenny’s BBQ Smokehouse at 732 Maryland Ave. NE.

McConnell: Democratic ‘Blue Slips’ Won’t Block Trump Judges
Says objections home-state Democrats will only indicate dissent

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that Senate Republicans intend to get President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees confirmed no matter what obstacles the Democrats throw their way.

The Kentucky Republican has now confirmed he plans to move forward on judicial nominees even if home-state Democratic senators don’t return their so-called “blue slips” to the Judiciary Committee.

Robert Menendez Returns to Capitol
New Jersey Democrat has been absent due to public corruption trial

There was a rather unexpected face walking the halls of the Senate Thursday: Sen. Robert Menendez.

The New Jersey Democrat returned to business at the Capitol Thursday for the first time since the start of his trial on public corruption charges began in Newark, N.J., on Sept. 6.

Lawmakers Push Trump to Release JFK Assassination Files
Bipartisan group introduce resolutions ahead of October deadline

Senior lawmakers are calling on President Donald Trump to allow the release of remaining government records on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Resolutions introduced in the House and Senate would call on the president to allow release of documents held by the National Archives and Records Administration, and for the Archives to work to meet a statutory deadline that arrives later in October.

Even Senators Hate Robocalls
Aging Committee hearing focuses on scam calls to seniors

Even senators are plagued by their home phones ringing off the hook with inappropriate and even illegal robocalls.

“My husband and I received so many on our landline in Bangor that we discontinued the landline,” Maine Republican Susan Collins said Wednesday.

Bipartisan Efforts Behind Coal Miner Pension Push
Manchin and Capito lead Senate effort, as miners return to Capitol Hill

The coal miners are back.

Last fall, you couldn’t walk through the Capitol’s hallways without running into mine workers wearing camouflage T-shirts.

In Memoriam at the Capitol
Lawmakers gather to remember colleagues

Current and former lawmakers and members of their families came together Wednesday to honor five senators and 28 members of the House who died over the past year-and-a-half.

Former Florida GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns, the president of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, led the Statuary Hall ceremony.

Rubio Says Puerto Rico Recovery Needs Go Far Beyond Money
Logistical challenges could make situation on the ground even worse

Sen. Marco Rubio has a message for the Trump administration and his Republican colleagues: Puerto Rico has massive logistical challenges in recovering from Hurricane Maria that are at risk of getting worse, not better.

“If tomorrow we authorize $10 billion of aid to Puerto Rico, we would struggle to deliver it,” the Florida Republican told reporters after a meeting at the White House Tuesday.

Why It Looks Like the Senate’s Debating the Defense Bill Again
Democrats anticipate GOP effort to reverse CFPB rule

Reading the Senate schedule Tuesday might give off a serious sense of deja vu. But there is a reason for that. 

Officially, senators are getting set to debate proceeding to the Senate version of the annual defense authorization bill. But wait, one might ask: Wasn’t Armed Services Chairman John McCain just on the floor for days overseeing that bill? Yes.

Collins Opposition to Graham-Cassidy Likely Dooms Obamacare Repeal
Third GOP senator announced against it

Sen. Susan Collins delivered the likely final blow to the Senate Republicans’ latest effort to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

“Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target. Today, we find out that there is now a fourth version of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which is as deeply flawed as the previous iterations,” the Maine Republican said in a statement of the effort spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

McConnell Avoided Making a Promise He Couldn’t Keep
McCain’s health care announcement showed value of majority leader’s caution

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never quite guaranteed a floor vote on the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law as the clock ticked toward an end-of-September deadline.

The Kentucky Republican’s office was measured last week when asked about the prospects for floor action, with the majority leader saying through multiple spokespersons that it was “the Leader’s intention to consider” the legislation drafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

McCain a ‘No’ on Latest Senate Health Care Bill
Arizona Republican says there is not enough time for debate

Arizona Sen. John McCain said Friday that given the truncated timeline, he cannot vote for the health care repeal proposal floated by fellow Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana next week.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it,” McCain said. “Without a full [Congressional Budget Office] score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”