Niels Lesniewski

Chief Standing Bear statue welcomed in Capitol, replacing William Jennings Bryan
McCarthy: ‘as the tours are given, I promise you: you will stop here’

The prominent placement of Nebraska’s new statue of the legendary Chief Standing Bear in Statuary Hall was quite intentional.

So said Sen. Roy Blunt at an unveiling ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. The Missouri senator was introduced as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, but it was in one of his other capacities that he had shown Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., where he thought the statue should be positioned.

AG Barr takes temperature of Senate GOP on gun background checks
But there's still confusion about what President Donald Trump will ultimately support

Attorney General William Barr continued to take the temperature of Republican senators on expanding background checks Wednesday after a working document started circulating publicly.

“As the president has made clear he’s interested in exploring meaningful solutions that will actually protect people, make people safer,” the attorney general said. “And I’m up here just kicking around some ideas, getting perspectives, so I can be in a better position to advise the president. The president has made no decision yet on these issues.”

Highlighting UAW ties, Cory Booker unveils labor plan as GM workers strike
Booker’s grandfather was a union rep in Detroit and worked on an assembly line during World War II

As a General Motors strike continues for a third day, presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker is rolling out his labor policy plan.

As part of the unveiling, the Democrat from New Jersey is embracing his family’s history with organized labor, and in particular, the United Auto Workers.

Congress responds to an Olympic cry for help with oversight hammer
Sens. Moran and Blumenthal want legislative action this fall

With less than a year before the world gathers to ignite the Olympic flame in Tokyo for the 2020 summer games, two senators are pushing legislation that would provide the most significant congressional oversight in a generation of the board governing U.S. participation.

Spurred by numerous allegations from Olympic athletes of sexual abuse, a bill by Sens. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, would make it easier for Congress to effectively fire members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, or to decertify a governing body like USA Gymnastics in response to future scandals.

China trade war has Massachusetts lawmakers wanting new export markets for lobsters
China has imposed a 25 percent tariff, hurting exports from New England

New England lobster trappers have been among victims of the trade tensions between the United States and China.

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation want the Trump administration to help their home state lobster industry by seeking new export markets for the crustaceans.

Winter athletes warn Senate Democrats: Climate change is ‘melting away’ our sports
Former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter among participants at Democratic panel’s hearing

Senate Democrats heard Thursday from winter sports athletes and adventurers about the consequences of a warming climate on their careers and lives.

“I climb a great deal of glaciers and ice, and there is no doubt increased temperatures are melting away both my sport and my livelihood,” Caroline Gleich, a ski mountaineer and adventurer, told a hearing of the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Ted Cruz: A Trump deal with Democrats on gun control could lead conservatives to stay home in 2020
Depressed turnout ‘could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,’ Texas Republican says

Sen. Ted Cruz is warning that President Donald Trump making a deal with Democrats on gun legislation might cause conservative voters to stay home in 2020.

“If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights,” the Texas Republican said, “that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren.”

Appeals court nominee won’t answer questions about role in White House immigration policies
Steven Menashi says there was no agreement between White House counsel’s office and Senate Democrats to allow him to give details

President Donald Trump’s nominee for a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court based in New York told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he cannot discuss his role in developing the administration's immigration policy.

Steven Menashi, who works in the White House counsel’s office, has been among the top targets for progressive groups trying to derail Trump nominees to the federal bench, citing a variety of past writings and statements.

Senate Democrats to try blocking Trump’s border wall diversion again
Shifting of $3.6 billion in military construction funds reignites effort to force a termination vote

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer will announce that his caucus will force another floor vote to terminate President Donald Trump’s border security national emergency.

“This rises to a large and vital constitutional issue: does our country truly have checks and balances, particularly important when we have such an overreaching president? This vote will also provide a chance for Senators to prevent the president from stealing military funding from their states to foot the bill for an expensive and ineffective wall he promised Mexico would pay for,” the New York Democrat will say on the Senate floor, according to an excerpt provided to CQ Roll Call.

Despite pressure, still no gun legislation position from White House
Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill intend to keep up pressure

House and Senate Democrats intend to keep pressuring President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to support bipartisan efforts to close what they see as loopholes in background checks for gun purchases.

But a meeting Monday between White House officials and leaders of the U.S. Conference of Mayors left little room for optimism.

Democrats question lack of flu vaccines, quarantine procedures for migrant children
Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, also ask about medical screenings

A group of 13 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, led by Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren, are expressing new concerns about a decision not to provide seasonal flu vaccines to migrants in U.S. detention.

“This dangerous decision not to administer vaccinations for a disease that has already proven fatal to migrant children in CBP’s custody is immoral and irresponsible, placing entire communities at risk of the flu and its associated complications,” the senators wrote to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar.

Road Ahead: Will Congress, Trump agree to any new gun laws?
Environment legislation and appropriations will highlight the week while senators wait for the president

Will Congress do anything about gun violence in September?

That question will be front and center as the House and Senate return to legislative business this week, even if the answer to the question may come down to one man on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue: President Donald Trump.

Harry Reid talks up ‘double opportunity’ for Senate Democrats in Georgia
Former majority leader also says filibuster will be gone ‘no later than’ the next congress

Former Democratic Leader Harry Reid is talking up the prospects of Democrats winning back the Senate in 2020, thanks in part to an unexpected early resignation by a popular Republican.

Reid, speaking with reporters Tuesday about energy and environment proposals ahead of a marathon series of CNN town halls focused on climate change, was thinking not just about the presidential race but also about the Senate map for next year.

McConnell: No votes on gun measures that Trump won't sign
Senate Majority Leader expects to know next week if Trump will support what he has discussed publicly

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he expected to know next week whether President Donald Trump would be supporting new gun-related legislation in the aftermath of recent mass shootings.

The Kentucky Republican was asked in an interview about criticism he has received from Democrats for not putting House-passed background check bills on the floor. McConnell reiterated to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Senate would not be holding another series of test votes on firearm measures that have no chance of being signed into law.

Rebuke of James Comey provokes chatter, but likely not resolution
Republicans quick to blast former FBI director, even if there’s not much new

There was just enough in Thursday’s rebuke of former FBI Director James Comey to get the Capitol Hill chattering class going, but likely not enough to settle the matter altogether or lead to any bombshell response from Congress or federal prosecutors.

The Justice Department’s office of inspector general released a report showing that the former director broke the FBI’s policies by holding on to contemporaneous memos he had drafted about meetings with President Donald Trump, and further broke from policy in leaking contents.

Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at the end of 2019
Georgia Republican has Parkinson’s disease, faces other health challenges

Sen. Johnny Isakson announced Wednesday that he will resign his Senate seat at the end of the year, setting up a potentially competitive race in 2020 in a key electoral state. 

The Georgia Republican, who chairs both the Veterans’ Affairs and Ethics committees, has Parkinson’s disease and has been recovering from a fall that took place in July. A statement from Isakson’s office also said the senator had a surgical procedure earlier this week in Marietta, Georgia, to remove a carcinoma from one of his kidneys.

Lawmakers press to keep Myanmar sanctions in defense bill
Statement comes in conjunction with second anniversary of forced migration of Rohingya Muslims

Top lawmakers are using Sunday’s anniversary of the forced migration of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to encourage defense negotiators to keep new sanctions in the annual defense policy bill.

Legislative language based on bipartisan House and Senate legislation is included in the House-passed version of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization, and the members of both chambers leading the sanctions effort are calling on their colleagues to not remove the language in conference negotiations with the Senate. The measure would require sanctions to be imposed on senior military officials.

Bernie Sanders labor plan would let federal workers strike
Presidential contender unveils plan ahead of Iowa AFL-CIO trip

Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a new labor plan Wednesday that includes a proposal to let federal employees go on strike.

“Under current law, federal employees are not guaranteed the same labor rights as workers in the private sector. While they have the ability to unionize, they are prohibited from going on strike,” a plan summary said. “Under this plan, federal workers would have the right to strike.”

Elizabeth Warren is blasting Wells Fargo over fees, again
Latest criticism is over fees charged to allegedly closed accounts

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has another complaint about Wells Fargo.

This week, the Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate is taking issue with the bank allegedly charging fees on accounts that customers had believed to be closed.

Attorney general installs new leadership at Federal Bureau of Prisons
Moves follow suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in prison custody

Attorney General William Barr has replaced the leadership of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Barr is appointing Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to the position of director. Barr previously appointed her to the same post in 1992, when he was last the attorney general.