Niels Lesniewski

Amid impeachment saga, a kitchen sink of legislative dealing
Sen. Alexander: ‘There’s more to life than judges and impeachment’

The holiday rush on Capitol Hill is in full swing, and the bipartisan legislative lethargy is showing signs of easing even as the House debates articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Senate and House negotiators are still trying to reach an agreement on a bundle of spending bills, but there has been a relative abundance of other bipartisan deal-making and even actual legislation passing in the Senate.

McConnell warns of need for cooperation to complete Christmas wish list
There already may not be enough time if senators object to defense policy, spending measures

The clock is ticking toward Christmas, and in one of the longest-lasting holiday traditions, a Senate majority leader is warning that without bipartisan cooperation there won’t be enough time to get all the work done before the holidays.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened Tuesday’s session with the 2019 version of the regular holiday warning.

Road ahead: Impeachment articles and spending bills top the agenda
Senators will continue voting on confirming nominations, including for the Ninth Circuit

The House is barreling toward a vote on articles of impeachment, possibly before the holiday recess.

House Judiciary Democrats stayed in Washington over the weekend for impeachment strategy sessions, and a Monday hearing will set the scene for the scope of articles of impeachment.

Targeting China, senators want Olympics to move up human rights timeline
10 senators have written to IOC President Thomas Bach

Looking toward China’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, senators from both parties want the International Olympic Committee to speed up the timeline for requirements designed to protect human rights in host countries.

In the letter signed by 10 senators led by Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, the lawmakers express concern about China’s track record to IOC President Thomas Bach.

Ted Cruz pays off World Series bet with Texas barbecue and beer
Senator wore a Washington Nationals jersey for the occasion

Sen. Ted Cruz repaid his World Series bet in style Thursday with a feast of Texas barbecue and Shiner beer.

“I agreed to go full bore, so I am painfully going to deliver, although I continue to wave my 2017 rally flag,” the Texas Republican said at a luncheon with Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, their staffs and other invited guests.

Impeachment trial timing hangs over 2020 Senate calendar
January schedule is filled with question marks

The Senate has released its calendar for 2020, but the year will begin with a giant question mark because of a possible impeachment trial.

The month of January is missing from the schedule entirely.

Bipartisan task force to ‘save minor league baseball’ unveiled in House
Group held first meeting about Major League Baseball plan to cut 42 teams

Rep. John Moolenaar has fond memories of the opening of Dow Diamond, the ballpark that is home to the Class A Great Lakes Loons.

“I can still remember when the field was built, and they had the opening day. I asked the general manager, you know, are any of these players that are on the team going to make it to the big leagues,” the Republican from Michigan said Tuesday. “I remember him saying, well, watch this pitcher. He’s only going to be with us for a little while.”

Johnny Isakson farewell highlights challenges in Georgia Senate race
Political reality may make it difficult for his GOP successor to follow his bipartisan lead

Republican and Democratic senators took a break from their predictably partisan conference lunches Tuesday afternoon for a bipartisan barbecue honoring Sen. Johnny Isakson.

The outpouring of tributes made clear the Georgia Republican’s successor will have big shoes to fill, and the political reality is that financial executive Kelly Loeffler, whom Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp will announce Wednesday as Isakson’s replacement, might not have an easy time following his bipartisan lead.

Road ahead: impeachment progress, judicial nominations and a Christmas tree
First open hearing at House Judiciary is set for Wednesday

In a sign of the season, the next open House impeachment hearing is scheduled to take place the same day as the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.

The impeachment inquiry remains front and center as Congress returns this week, with the Senate continuing to methodically confirm the judicial nominations of President Donald Trump.

McConnell questions Pompeo on Hong Kong, Myanmar in Louisville visit
‘What’s your take on Aung San Suu Kyi?’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was in his element Monday morning as he welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the University of Louisville.

The Kentucky Republican served as interviewer for an onstage discussion with Pompeo, who is widely known to be the preferred candidate of McConnell and other senior Republicans for the Senate seat in Kansas being opened by the pending retirement of GOP Sen. Pat Roberts.

House Judiciary schedules first impeachment hearing, invites Trump
Hearing to review constitutional grounds for drafting articles of impeachment

The House Judiciary Committee has invited President Donald Trump to participate in a hearing next week on the constitutional justification for impeachment.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced that his panel will hold its first impeachment hearing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The New York Democrat also wrote to the president asking if he intends to participate either personally or through his attorneys, pursuant to the House resolution that set the ground rules for the impeachment process.

Congress boos plan to cut Minor League Baseball teams
Sen. Bernie Sanders raises questions about MLB antitrust protections

A proposal from Major League Baseball to slash the number of affiliated minor league clubs is generating outrage on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail.

Sen. Bernie Sanders took those complaints to the next level Monday afternoon, with the independent from Vermont writing in a letter sent through his presidential campaign to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred that the league’s exemption from antitrust laws could be at stake.

House calendar for 2020 includes presidential election year oddities
Parties’ annual policy retreats are also on the schedule

Once House members conclude their work for 2019, they will not be expected back on Capitol Hill until the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 7.

That’s according to the new House calendar for 2020 officially unveiled Thursday morning by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

‘The Report’ has advice for young Capitol Hill staffers
You never know where you’ll cross paths again in Washington

The movie “The Report” is primarily about the CIA’s torture program, but it’s not without a bit of career advice for young congressional aides.

One of the oldest lessons in Washington, D.C., is that you never know where you are going to run into people later in their careers.

Ben Sasse presses prison bureau director on Jeffrey Epstein death, guards sleeping on the job
‘It’s about the fact that that bastard wasn’t able to testify against his other co-conspirators’

On the day that two federal correctional officers were charged in connection with failing to properly monitor sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York jail cell, Sen. Ben Sasse had particularly strong words for the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction,” Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement announcing the indictments.

Road ahead: Impeachment suspense drowns out government funding debate
There’s a full schedule of open hearings at the House Intelligence Committee

Seldom does an imminent deadline to avoid a government shutdown fly under the radar, but that might happen this week with most eyes on impeachment hearings in the House.

Congress will need to pass another continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Thursday, as leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations panels look to finalize subcommittee allocations for the delayed fiscal 2020 bills, in conjunction with top leadership and representatives from the administration.

Democrats protest, but Senate confirms Steven Menashi to federal appeals court
Nominee for Second Circuit described as ‘bottom crawler’ by Democratic leader

The man Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer described as a “bottom crawler” was confirmed Thursday to a lifetime appointment on the federal appeals court based in his home state of New York.

Schumer and other Democrats have opposed many of President Donald Trump’s nominees to be federal judges that have been called up for votes by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But the opposition to Steven J. Menashi has been more voracious than for most.

One of Government Publishing Office’s most important customers might soon be in charge
Hugh Halpern has confirmation hearing to be GPO director

Not every nominee shows up for a confirmation hearing ready to show off his own personal copy of the House Manual. Then again, not every nominee is Hugh Halpern.

Halpern, the longtime Republican staff director of the House Rules Committee and subsequently director of floor operations for Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, is President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Government Publishing Office.

Senators move ahead with enhancing Olympics oversight
Commerce Committee advanced bill after debate about role of Congress

Senators moved ahead with an effort to enhance congressional oversight of U.S. participation in the Olympics on Wednesday, part of an ongoing response to recent sexual abuse scandals in sports.

The voice vote by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to advance an amended version of a bipartisan bill came despite concerns raised by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Trump administration shows up to USA Freedom hearing without answers to key questions about data collection
Mike Lee threatens monthly hearings after Justice Department remains not responsive to letter

Senators expressed their displeasure Wednesday with the Trump administration’s inability to answer questions about the National Security Agency’s collection of call data records at a Judiciary Committee hearing. 

And one senator went so far as to suggest monthly hearings on foreign intelligence surveillance powers.