Niels Lesniewski

Cindy Hyde-Smith Gets Appointment to Mississippi Senate Seat
State’s first woman in Congress expected to seek election in November

Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith will be coming to the U.S. Senate next month.

Gov. Phil Bryant formally tapped the Republican agriculture and commerce commissioner to fill the unexpired term of Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, who is poised to go out with a win on an omnibus spending bill. Currently in his seventh term, Cochran is resigning effective April 1 for health reasons. 

No Snow Day on Capitol Hill Wednesday
Floor votes and hearings are still expected

Executive agencies might close Wednesday for the snowstorm that’s bearing down on Washington, but it should be closer to business-as-usual on Capitol Hill.

The cold rain and expected changeover to snow is arriving when lawmakers are already safely in the nation’s capital, so the most usual reason to cancel business — flight delays — won’t be an issue.

Senate Intel Unveils First Findings on Russia Election Meddling
Focus Tuesday was on election infrastructure security

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recommendations for how to secure U.S. election systems from intrusion efforts by the Russians and others aren’t exactly earth-shattering.

But that’s not to say they aren’t important.

Senate Pushes Anti-Sex Trafficking Deal Ahead
Passage assured this week despite concerns from some internet businesses

Lawmakers championing a bipartisan bill to make it easier to go after sex trafficking on the internet are on the verge of victory.

In the Senate, it’s a large coalition that’s been led by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Expect More Trump on Nomination Fights, Short Says
Legislative affairs chief decries Democrats even as Senate awaits nominees

The White House renewed its complaints Friday about the pace of Senate action on nominations Friday, even as President Donald Trump is making the “personnel business” more complicated by shifting his Cabinet and other senior staff positions.

White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short described himself as a “warm-up act” and suggested President Donald Trump soon will make a larger “foray” into the nominations debate.

Five Cabinet Secretaries Face Senate Barrage
Questions range from infrastructure to nuclear waste to the Census

It’s not every day — or even every decade — that five cabinet secretaries walk in to testify at the same Senate hearing.

And while Wednesday’s Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing generally focused on President Donald Trump’s proposal to rebuild American infrastructure (and doubts about how to pay for it), senators took full advantage of having so many heavy hitters in one room.

Sunshine State Senator Seeks More Sunshine
Marco Rubio proposes year-round Daylight Saving Time

Winters might not be quite so long and lonely if Sen. Marco Rubio gets his way.

The Sunshine State Republican wants to keep the sun out late, all year round.

Tillerson Termination Adds New Priorities to Senate Calendar
Weeks in April and May could be consumed by State, CIA nominations

Whatever the Senate might have wanted to focus on in April and May will now have to compete for time with a new priority thrust upon it by President Donald Trump.

Once senators got past the initial shock of Trump’s Twitter announcement Tuesday that he was ousting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, they quickly moved toward paving the way to debate and confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s successor, as well as Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to lead that agency.

House Intel Republicans Say 'No Collusion' Between Trump and Russia
Release short summary of findings before sharing report with panel Democrats

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee disagree with the position of every U.S. intelligence agency that Russia wanted Donald Trump to be elected president.

The House Intelligence Committee Republicans said in a short public summary document for a more than 150 page report that they would be, concurring, “with the Intelligence Community Assessment’s judgments, except with respect to [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] supposed preference for candidate Trump.”

Senators Will Vote on Pulling Troops Out of Yemen, But When
Resolution could reach the floor this week, if there’s time

A resolution that would direct the withdrawal of U.S. forces from ongoing hostilities in Yemen is ripe for Senate action, but the clogged calendar means supporters might not immediately get it to the floor.

The question may be how to shoehorn the measure on to the schedule before the next recess.

The Veep: A Heartbeat Away From a Tie-Breaking Vote
Undercover Capitol takes you inside the historic workplace — one video at a time

Sessions Not Plotting Crackdown on March Madness Pools
Perhaps thanks to Auburn and Alabama making the big dance

Enforcement actions against office March Madness pools will not be a priority for the Justice Department this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday.

“Well, Alabama and Auburn both got in, so we’re not suing them right now,” Sessions told radio host Hugh Hewitt when asked about the potential of federal lawsuits against “bracketologists.”

Not Even Richard Burr’s Son Could Avoid Security Clearance Review Backlog
Intelligence chairman made point during oversight hearing on clearance process

Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr told a story at Wednesday’s hearing about the security clearance process of a 22 year-old seeking employment with the Department of Defense roughly a decade ago.

It took that young man almost a year to get through the clearance hurdles. He was the North Carolina Republican’s son.

Banking Debate Splits Democrats, but They Might All Win
Friends or foes hope to capitalize on the topic

Senate Democrats might all be winners in the chamber’s debate this week on curtailing some provisions of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul.

On the one hand, progressives can again prove their bona fides as voices against big financial institutions, while more conservative Democrats on the ballot in 2018 from largely rural states can boast they are making the Senate work to support their community banks.

Inhofe Returns From Asia With Warnings About China, North Korea
Oklahoma Republican toured region during latest recess

Sen. James M. Inhofe returned from a recess congressional delegation to the Asia-Pacific region expressing doubts that South Korea’s leadership was adequately alarmed about North Korea’s nuclear program.

“I think it’s true that they’ve gotten soft,” Inhofe told a small group of reporters in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday. “They really didn’t feel that the threat was that great.”

Senate Plans to Revive NATO Observer Group
Senate organization first developed in 1997 ahead of new NATO admissions

Senators are preparing to revive a bipartisan group to further demonstrate the chamber’s commitment to NATO.

The organization being revived is the Senate NATO Observer Group. It was first established in 1997, to help the Senate monitor the work on the expansion of the organization to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Senate ultimately consented to amending the North Atlantic Treaty in 1998 on an overwhelming vote of 80-19 to provide for adding those three countries.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank Larkin to Retire
Chamber figure plans to remain in the office until a successor is named

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms  Frank J. Larkin plans to retire from his post once a successor is named.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who nominated Larkin for the post when the Kentucky Republican became majority leader, made the announcement Monday.

Democrats Plan to Craft Tax Law Changes, Van Hollen Says
Don't expect a #fullrepeal effort

Senate Democrats plan to craft a plan to rework last year’s overhaul of the tax code,  but don’t expect them to push full repeal.

That was the sense from the leader of the Democrats’ political operation, who focused on support within the caucus for rolling back provisions most beneficial to those in higher income brackets.

Warren Responds to Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ Nickname, Defends Family History
Massachusetts Democrat spoke about her family’s Oklahoma background

Sen. Elizabeth Warren directly confronted Trump’s nickname for her Wednesday.

The president has a habit, on Twitter and elsewhere, of referring to the liberal senator as “Pocahontas.” It’s directed at Warren’s claim of Native American heritage in her family tree, among the campaign flashpoints when she first ran for Senate.

Corker ‘Listening’ to Encouragement to Reconsider Senate Race
Blackburn campaign blasts ‘ego-driven, tired old men’

A spokesperson for Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker confirmed Tuesday night the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman is “listening” to pleas to reconsider his decision not to seek a third term.

“In recent days, people across Tennessee have reached out to Senator Corker with concerns about the outcome of this election because they believe it could determine control of the Senate and the future of our agenda,” spokeswoman Micah Johnson said in a statement.