Niels Lesniewski

Covering the Capitol: Adjusting to New Realities
 

Getting quickly from one part of the sprawling Capitol Building to another has always meant negotiating a labyrinth of stairwells and hallways, but these days more places tend to be off-limits due to security concerns at a moment’s notice. Four CQ and Roll Call journalists talk about how critical access to lawmakers is becoming more of a challenge....
Senate, House Reach Tax Overhaul Agreement
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch confirms

Senate and House Republicans have reached a broad agreement on a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch said Wednesday.

As he was leaving for the White House, the Senate Finance Chairman confirmed the House and Senate have reached a deal on overhauling the tax code.

Democrats Push GOP to Delay Tax Talks After Alabama
But Republican tax conference committee is full speed ahead

Democrats were quick to call on Republicans to delay their efforts to rewrite the tax code, saying Doug Jones' victory in Tuesday’s special Senate election in Alabama is a sign from voters that needs to be heeded.

“The vote on the tax bill should be postponed. The voice of Alabamians should be heard on this and Doug Jones should have a chance to weigh in,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told reporters Wednesday.

A Tax Conference Committee Meeting Mostly For Show
Parameters are clear for final Republican push on tax bill

Nothing against the members of the House and Senate attending Wednesday’s inaugural meeting of the conference committee finalizing the tax code overhaul, but it’s mostly for show and unlikely to be must-see television.

That’s because, with the arguable exception of the farm bill, open meetings of conference committees are not where the deals get done, despite the talking points from top negotiators.

The Strange Day of Senate Farewells
Franken, Strange speeches were very different scenes

Thursday became departure day in the Senate, with back-to-back farewell speeches oddly linked due to the recent wave of allegations about sexual harassment.

Staffers and visitors, along with members of the media, filled the Senate chamber Thursday morning for Sen. Al Franken’s announcement that he would in fact resign his seat in the aftermath of an ever-increasing number of sexual harassment allegations.

Schumer Told Franken Wednesday Morning That He Needed to Go
Calls by Senate Democrats for Franken to resign came after new allegations

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer knew it was time for Minnesota Democrat Al Franken to leave the Senate even before the public calls for his resignation Wednesday.

The New York Democrat told Franken in a phone call that he needed to resign after Wednesday morning’s publication of further allegations of sexual misconduct by the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Cascade of Senate Democrats Call on Franken to Resign
Messages for Franken’s departure appear coordinated

Nearly simultaneously, a series of Senate Democratic women issued calls for Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign Wednesday morning including Patty Murray, a trusted lieutenant to Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and rising star Kamala Harris.

They were followed quickly by several Senate Democratic men and the head of the national Democratic Party.

Bannon a ‘Specialist’ in Picking Loser Senate Candidates, McConnell Says
Majority Leader said he expects Hatch decision soon

Updated 10:58 a.m. | Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he did not expect to lose any campaigns in 2018 because of fringe candidates who might have the backing of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon.

“We’re not going to lose any nominations to the kind of candidates that guy you were talking about endorsed,” McConnell said. “What he’s a specialist in is nominating people who lose.”

In Utah Trip, Trump Looks to Boost Hatch
President pushing senior-most GOP senator to seek re-election

After President Donald Trump signed proclamations Monday drastically diminishing the scale of national monuments in Utah, he handed off the pen to a senator who still seems a most unlikely ally.

“I’ve served under many presidents — seven to be exact — but none is like the man we have in the White House today. When you talk, this president listens,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said Monday in introducing Trump at Utah’s state Capitol in Salt Lake City.

Victorious McConnell Praises GOP Team Effort on Taxes
The leader says he does not expect a tough conference

Updated at 2:28 a.m. | This time, just about everything went according to plan for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican, who months ago came up just short of passing a bill through his chamber to roll back the 2010 health care law, got 51 Republicans behind the sweeping tax overhaul that passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Nancy Pelosi Joins DCCC Chairman in Calling on Ruben Kihuen to Resign
Former finance director alleges Kihuen assaulted her during 2016 campaign

Updated Dec. 2, 12:15 a.m. | House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has joined in the calls for Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen to resign.

The statement from the California Democrat comes in response to allegations that Kihuen sexually harassed his finance director on the campaign trail last year.

GOP Still Seeking Tax Overhaul Magic Numbers
Final bill may feature more ‘stimulus’ in the early years

After sending senators home earlier than expected Thursday, Republican negotiators were going to work through the night trying to thread the needle to get 50 or more votes for their tax code rewrite.

Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden was giving a lengthy speech criticizing the Republican tax plan after Thurday night’s final Senate vote, but the Oregon Democrat was really serving as the soundtrack over an animated gathering of Republican senators and senior aides.

Collins: Republican Leaders Expected to Back ‘Pay-Go’ Waiver
Maine Republican also raised concerns over SALT deduction

Sen. Susan Collins said Republican leaders have assured her that automatic cuts to entitlement programs that would be triggered if the GOP tax overhaul becomes law would be stopped.

The reductions, which could amount to $25 billion in cuts to Medicare, would occur under the 2010 statutory pay-as-you-go law unless Congress approves a waiver.

Removing Moore a Complicated Question, Collins Says
But first, ‘We have to seat him’

Sen. Susan Collins said the question of expelling Roy Moore from the Senate is a complicated one.

The Republican from Maine noted she supported Sen. Luther Strange in the Alabama primary.

Tax Overhaul's Arctic Drilling Byrd Problems Resolved
Murkowski says Republicans drafted fixes to technical concerns

Updated 7:45 p.m. | Most of the focus has been on taxes, but the portion of the Senate reconciliation bill that would open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge needed to be revised, too.

Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the fixes that are being worked out for Byrd violations in her portion of the bill would be added to a substitute to be offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Republicans Float Trimming Corporate Tax Cuts to Help Working Parents
Rubio, Lee want to make child tax credits refundable

How sacrosanct is President Donald Trump’s commitment to a 20 percent corporate tax rate?

A GOP amendment to the Republican bill to overhaul the U.S. tax code that would raise the corporate rate to offset an enhanced child tax credit could put that to the test.

Pro-Trump Group Pressures Lankford on Tax Cuts
Running TV and radio ads across Oklahoma

A pro-Trump outside group is taking to the airwaves in Oklahoma, pushing to make sure that GOP Sen. James Lankford votes in favor of the Senate’s tax overhaul.

Lankford has been among the Republican senators working on a so-called “trigger” option that could provide a backstop, rolling back some of the tax cuts in the event economic growth targets and thus the accompanying revenue are not met.

Trump Tax Taunts Don’t Trouble Red-State Democrats
McCaskill outspoken in criticism of Senate GOP measure

Moderate Senate Democrats — many of them on the ballot in 2018 — came together with a unified message Tuesday morning, just before President Donald Trump arrived at the Capitol to meet with the Republican Conference.

Sen. Tim Kaine was perhaps the most direct. The Virginia Democrat said at the news conference that the GOP should make a run at a bipartisan product before bringing to the floor a tax reconciliation bill that would only require a simple majority to pass.

Looming Spending Deadline Leads to Tax Consideration Crunch
Senate must turn attention to government shutdown threat by early next week

If the tax reconciliation bill somehow doesn’t make it to the Senate floor this week, it may have to wait until much closer to Christmas.

Pushing the measure back just a week would not seem to be an option because of December’s other deadline crush: the expiration of the current continuing resolution funding the government through Dec. 8.

Senate’s Defense Spending Bill Shows Need for Budget Deal
Defense appropriators would bust budget caps

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to release the four remaining fiscal 2018 spending bills last week — including a cap-busting defense measure — underscores the urgency to get a deal on the bigger picture.

If the Senate defense bill became law, arbitrary automatic cuts would take place in the middle of January, as Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois pointed out in a Nov. 21 statement.