Niels Lesniewski

Mitch McConnell Touting Victory With Hemp Legalization on Farm Bill
Issue is becoming an early plank of the Kentucky Republican’s 2020 re-election bid

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to put himself on the farm bill conference committee was insurance that one of his policy priorities — and a key issue for his 2020 re-election campaign — would make it to President Donald Trump’s desk this year.

“At a time when farm income is down and growers are struggling, industrial hemp is a bright spot of agriculture’s future,” McConnell said Tuesday morning. “My provision in the farm bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight.”

Senate Releases 2019 Legislative Calendar
Features Include a two-week October recess

The Senate schedule for the rest of the year remains in flux, but the Senate calendar for 2019 is firmed out and generally lines up with the schedule outlined across the Dome by the new House Democratic majority.

After returning for a day to convene on Thursday, Jan. 3, the Senate will be back to work on Tuesday, Jan. 8, taking recess weeks that generally coincide with holidays, including two weeks around Easter Sunday.

Water Damage Affects Senate Offices in the Russell Building
Fire in oldest Senate office building leads to water woes in GOP offices

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had office damage to deal with Monday on their side of the top floor of the Russell Senate Office Building in the wake of a fire Saturday night

Portman’s front office was closed, and there was no immediate estimate for when repairs could be made. Other parts of the Portman office, where much of the staff works, was not affected. Fischer herself was spotted doing some packing and clearing belongings from her water-damaged office Monday morning.

Baseball Legend Larry Doby Tapped for Congressional Gold Medal
Civil rights icon broke color barrier in the American League

Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby is getting the Congressional Gold Medal.

The move drew praise from lawmakers not only from his home state of New Jersey, but also from Ohio, where Doby debuted and starred for the Cleveland Indians. After the Senate passed legislation last week to authorize the award, the next step is a signature from President Donald Trump.

Why the Senate Yemen Debate Might Not Include Response to Khashoggi Murder
Republicans may seek to limit amendment scope

The Senate is likely to proceed to a war powers resolution on U.S. involvement in Yemen next week, but the broader debate on policy toward Saudi Arabia may be short-circuited.

The Senate has not defined rules for floor debate on resolutions like the one that was recently discharged from the Foreign Relations Committee, and the chairman of that Senate panel intends to ask the chamber to set restrictive rules for amendments to war powers resolutions.

Bob Corker’s Quieter Foreign Policy Legacy
Retiring Foreign Relations chairman offers advice for new members

As Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker prepares to yield his gavel and leave the Senate, he has advice for newly elected senators: gain expertise and actually listen to your colleagues.

“Some of these people obviously are coming in with large platforms. I mean, they’ve been significant figures prior to coming here,” the Tennessee Republican, first elected in 2006, said in a recent interview. “Still though, they’re going to be freshman senators and they’re going to be sitting at the end of the dais in most cases in whatever the committee.”

Senate Gears Up for Unpredictable Debate on Saudi Arabia and Yemen
CIA Director briefed key senators on Khashoggi killing Tuesday

The Senate is gearing up for a potentially unwieldy debate over U.S. policy regarding Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and a Tuesday briefing for key senators from the CIA chief did nothing to thwart that.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker told Roll Call Tuesday afternoon that interested parties would be meeting on Wednesday to try to find an agreement on handling the contentious Yemen resolution.

Grassley Urges McConnell to Take Up Criminal Justice Bill
Judges can wait, Judiciary chairman says

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley again implored Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get a criminal overhaul through the Senate before the end of the year.

It should be OK if fewer of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominations get confirmed as a result, Grassley said, especially with the GOP holding the Senate.

GOP Sen. Kennedy Not Running for Louisiana Governor
Decision to focus on the Senate is helpful for Republican vote-counting

Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy announced Monday that he has decided against a run for governor next year.

“I love being in the United States Senate. I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2019,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I will, however, continue to work hard every day in D.C. and Louisiana for jobs, economic growth, cheaper health insurance, a stronger military, and an end to government waste.”

President George H.W. Bush to Lie in State in US Capitol Rotunda
Rotunda will be open to the public through the night Monday and Tuesday

The leaders of the Senate and House announced Saturday that the body of President George H.W. Bush will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda beginning on Monday evening.

A bicameral arrival ceremony is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, according to an announcement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

George H.W. Bush Receives Flood of Tributes From Congress
Among the most notable remembrances are from Texas and Maine

As tributes poured in overnight from Capitol Hill as word spread of the death of President George H.W. Bush, there were perhaps none more fitting than those from the states he came to call home.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said a Navy anchor that rests in Kennebunkport, where the Bush family would spend many summers is among the most fitting tributes from a community to a neighbor.

Bob Corker Wants Trump Administration to Rein In ‘Out of Control’ Mohammad bin Salman
Foreign Relations chairman unsure of vote to proceed to Yemen resolution next week

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker says Saudi Crown Prince  Mohammad bin Salman is “out of control” and hopes he can be brought back in control before the Senate votes to rebuke the Kingdom. 

With President Donald Trump and the prince both in Argentina for the G20 summit this weekend, Corker said in an interview with Roll Call on Thursday that he hopes the Trump administration can get the U.S. relationship with the kingdom into “balance” before the Senate is back voting, and before he has to contemplate voting to proceed to a floor debate on a joint resolution designed to stop American support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen.

Richard Burr: ‘If You Lie to Us, We’re Going to Go After You’
Senate Intelligence chairman alludes to Mueller plea agreement with Michael Cohen

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr said that Thursday’s guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney, should be seen as a clear warning.

“It’s a loud message to everybody that is interviewed by our committee, regardless of where that prosecution comes from: If you lie to us, we’re going to go after you,” Burr said Friday. “Our mandate is at the end of this to get as close to the clear truth as we possibly can, and we can’t do it on conjecture. We’ve got to do it on facts.”

Thomas Farr Nomination Likely Sunk After Tim Scott Announces Opposition
Senate had delayed confirmation vote until next week

Sen. Tim Scott has announced his opposition to the nomination of Thomas Farr to a federal judgeship in North Carolina, potentially dooming his confirmation.

“I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge,” Scott said in a statement reported by The State newspaper. “This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination.”

On Chaotic Wednesday, Senators Hunt for an Endgame
Yemen resolution, contentious nominees complicate escape plans

Wednesday was not a typical day in the Senate.

On an average Senate day, the visceral, negative response from senators to a closed briefing on U.S. policy on Saudi Arabia might have dominated headlines.

Graham Threatens to Stall Senate if He’s Not Briefed on Khashoggi by CIA
‘I’m talking about any key vote’

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday he would start voting against priority items for completing the Senate’s work if he is not properly briefed by the CIA about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The South Carolina Republican said the list could include nominations and the end-of-year spending package.

Former Rep. Ed Pastor Dies at Age 75
Was the first Hispanic member elected from Arizona and a longtime appropriator

Former Rep. Ed Pastor, the first Hispanic from Arizona to serve in the U.S. House, has died. He was 75.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called Pastor “an Arizona trailblazer and true public servant” in announcing his passing on Wednesday. The longtime Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee served for more than two decades in the House. He succeeded Rep. Morris K. Udall, who had resigned his seat in 1991 while battling Parkinson’s disease.

Senator Named Mammal Lover of the Year
Mike Enzi touts award for his work with American bison

Meet your “2018 U.S. National Mammal Champion”: Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi.

Yes, really.

Yemen Resolution Could Prompt Unruly Foreign Policy Floor Debate
Supporters of War Powers effort say that would be just fine

Like it or not, senators face a test vote as early as Wednesday on whether to debate a resolution to pull the U.S. out of the hostilities in Yemen.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to be on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning for a closed, all-senators briefing on Yemen policy that is certain to get into U.S. action regarding Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Criminal Justice Supporters Press Case for Floor Time
Mike Pence and Jared Kushner joined Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence had a guest with him at Tuesday’s Senate Republican lunch: White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. It was a sign the Trump administration is leaning on GOP leaders to schedule floor time for a key priority — overhauling the criminal justice system.

Kushner has been helping to lead the administration’s advocacy for a criminal justice overhaul bill that supporters are trying to cajole Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put on the floor before the end of the lame-duck session of Congress.