Niels Lesniewski

Does successful prostate surgery mean Sen. Michael Bennet will join the 2020 field?
Colorado Democrat had been planning presidential run before cancer diagnosis

Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s prostate cancer surgery was successful.

“Last weekend, Michael underwent surgery and is recovering at his home in Colorado. His doctors report the surgery was completely successful and he requires no further treatment. Michael and his family deeply appreciate the well wishes and support from Coloradans and others across the country, and he looks forward to returning to work after the recess,” spokeswoman Courtney Gidner said in a statement.

Atheist prayers can be barred by House chaplain, appeals court says
D.C. Circuit Court cites interpretation of House rules that say prayers must be religious

The House chaplain scored a legal victory on Good Friday, when a federal appeals court ruled he could not be ordered to allow a self-described atheist to offer a secular prayer to the House of Representatives.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sided with Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, in his official capacity as the House chaplain, and the chamber itself in litigation brought by Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a former minister. Barker alleged Conroy improperly rejected a request to have him serve as guest chaplain.

What happened when I went to a baseball game instead of reading the Mueller report
Some in Washington scrambled. Others spent the day eating Dippin’ Dots

You didn’t have to venture far from the Capitol on Thursday to find a crowd of Washingtonians who weren’t overwhelmed by the Mueller report.

Patrick Corbin, the newest Nationals star starting pitcher, took the mound a little after 1 p.m., before key Democrats like House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler or Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner had even weighed in on the substance of the report.

Senators press acting ICE director over ‘deficiencies’ at prison facilities
Democratic senators led by Warren contend no one is owning responsibility for failures

An investigation by Senate Democrats into the operation of ICE detention facilities by private prison companies just keeps turning up more questions.

That’s according to the latest letter from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 10 other Democratic caucus members, including fellow 2020 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Joe Biden eulogizes the ‘constantly evolving’ Fritz Hollings as he looks toward 2020
Potential presidential hopeful visited the Citadel on Tuesday to bid farewell to another Senate friend

As Joseph R. Biden Jr. mulls another run for the White House, the former vice president traveled to South Carolina to fulfill a duty that underscores his ties to a bygone era.

Biden, the most prolific eulogist in American politics, found himself in another house of worship Tuesday morning, bidding farewell to another former Senate colleague, South Carolina’s Ernest F. Hollings, a Southern Democrat who once advocated segregation but later honored a judge who fought it.

2020 Democratic hopefuls back striking Stop & Shop workers
Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited picketing workers outside a Massachusetts store on Friday

A New England grocery store strike is giving Democratic presidential hopefuls a chance to demonstrate their support for organized labor.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren greeted striking workers on a picket line in Somerville, Mass., on Friday — and of course, she brought Dunkin’ donuts and coffee.

Mitch McConnell says Senate Republicans are ‘determined not to lose women’ in 2020
Senate majority leader talks about having GOP senators run their own campaigns

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republican senators on the ballot in 2020 can attract support from suburban voters, especially women, by portraying themselves as a firewall against Democratic policies. 

“We all know why it happened,” the Kentucky Republican said of the electoral shifts that enabled Democrats to win control of the House in 2018. “We got crushed in the suburbs. We lost college graduates and women in the suburbs, which led in the House to losses in suburban Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Charleston, South Carolina, Philadelphia.”

Kamala Harris revives tax credit push to help people pay for housing costs
2020 presidential hopeful would provide refundable tax credits

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is reviving her proposal to provide new tax credits to help families with high housing costs.

The California senator on Tuesday will reintroduce the Rent Relief Act, which would establish refundable tax credits in cases when rent and utilities exceed 30 percent of a household’s income.

Elizabeth Warren: Eliminate Senate filibusters if a future GOP minority stops the Democratic agenda
2020 presidential hopeful says Mitch McConnell should not be allowed to block legislation

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is ready to say that if a future Republican Senate minority were to try to thwart her agenda, it will be time to get rid of the filibuster.

“I’m not running for president just to talk about making real, structural change. I’m serious about getting it done. And part of getting it done means waking up to the reality of the United States Senate,” the Massachusetts Democratic senator is expected to say Friday.

Coons and Klobuchar pitch retirement savings mandate plan
Businesses would get federal tax incentives for participating in new plans

One of the 2020 Democrats is helping lead a new effort to require companies to help their employees save for retirement.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has joined Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, in the effort. The new bill from the two senators also would set up a portable retirement account for employees of small businesses modeled on the federal workforce’s Thrift Savings Plan.

‘Nuclear’ fallout in Senate might take some time to register
Democrats show no immediate signs they are contemplating retaliation

The Senate’s Geiger counters hardly registered Wednesday afternoon after the most recent deployments of the “nuclear option” to speed up confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees, although the long-term effects on the institution may very well be significant. 

The first nominee considered, Jeffrey Kessler to be an assistant secretary of Commerce, was ultimately confirmed by voice vote after the two hours of post-cloture debate allowed under the new process was declared expired.

Sen. Michael Bennet discloses cancer diagnosis, still wants to run for president
Colorado Democrat expects to seek White House if he is cancer-free

Sen. Michael Bennet has a new complication before he decides for sure whether to run for president in 2020: prostate cancer.

The Colorado Democrat made his diagnosis public in a Wednesday interview with the Colorado Independent. He got the news after a routine physical, ahead of launching his expected White House bid.

Senate goes nuclear again, speeding up Donald Trump’s nominations
GOP senators voted Wednesday to effectively change the rules by setting a new precedent on debate time

Senate Republicans moved ahead with deploying the “nuclear option” again Wednesday, this time following through on an effort to cut down on debate time for most of President Donald Trump’s nominees.

In an exercise that had far less suspense than when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, made the move back in 2013, the Senate voted, 48-51, overturning the ruling of the presiding officer and setting a new precedent declaring that the remaining debate time for Jeffrey Kessler to be an assistant secretary of Commerce was two hours. A “no” vote was to overturn the presiding officer and establish the two-hour limit. 

Trump’s border threats complicate trade pact talks
Replacement for NAFTA already faces assortment of challenges on Capitol Hill

The Trump administration’s sales pitch for a new trade deal with America’s northern and southern neighbors has a long way to go, and the president’s threat to close the U.S. border with Mexico does not appear to be helping matters.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday amid renewed concern he may seek to shut down the flow of traffic between the two countries, a move that would by definition make free trade impossible.

In prelude to nuclear option, Senate rejects speeding up confirmation of nominees
McConnell now expected to move forward with only Republican support

The Senate inched closer Tuesday to Republicans using the “nuclear option” to slash the time for debate on the vast majority of judicial and executive nominations.

Senators blocked, 51-48, an effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up a resolution that would have set a new standing order. The support of 60 senators would have been needed to advance the debate.

2020 Democrats reject GOP call to back Iowa disaster aid
Senate Democrats opposed bid by Chuck Grassley amid dispute about Puerto Rico

Democratic senators running for president in 2020 lined up on Monday to block a GOP disaster aid package that would support the key caucus state of Iowa.

The votes against a move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to limit debate on a $13.45 billion Republican plan came as part of a broader dispute between President Donald Trump and Democratic lawmakers over assistance for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

Road ahead: Changing Senate rules, reupping Violence Against Women Act
McConnell heads into cloture clash with nothing much to lose

Senators are gearing up for a much-anticipated standoff over the debate time for confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees, as the House turns its attention to reviving and updating the Violence Against Women Act.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will address a joint meeting on Wednesday, following an invitation extended by the bipartisan congressional leadership to highlight the importance of the alliance.

McConnell moves toward ‘nuclear option’ for confirmation of Trump nominees
The move allows the Senate to approve Trump’s nominees more quickly

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set up debate next week to make it easier for Republicans to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees.

The Kentucky Republican came to the floor Thursday afternoon to complain about the difficulty Republicans have faced confirming a variety of Trump nominees and announced that, “the Senate is going to do something about it.”

Klobuchar declares trillion-dollar infrastructure plan is her top 2020 policy priority
Cites 2007 collapse of Minnesota’s I-35W bridge in pushing bigger federal transportation package than Trump

Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Thursday that she would make a trillion-dollar infrastructure package her top legislative priority if she were to win the presidency in 2020.

The Minnesota Democrat’s proposal, which her campaign outlined Thursday morning, would include over $650 billion in direct federal spending on an assortment of public works projects (not just highways and bridges). And the Klobuchar is trying to draw a contrast with the on-again-off-again infrastructure plans of President Donald Trump.

Trump administration’s Special Olympics cuts never had a chance
Senate’s top Education appropriator was at Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi last week

The Trump administration’s proposal to cut funding for the Special Olympics will not happen.

In reality, the cuts never had a chance, even before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday faced questions and criticism from a House Appropriations subcommittee about her department’s fiscal 2020 budget request to cut all funding from the organization.