Niels Lesniewski

Senate seeks to make sure that hacking election systems is a federal crime
Senators unanimously pass narrow legislation, but no broad action is expected

The Senate took another small step to improve election security Wednesday evening, even as there is no plan for a broader debate on the floor.

As the chamber was closing for the evening, senators passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee designed to make sure that hacking election systems is actually a federal crime.

GOP spending hawks hang up 9/11 bill; passage still likely
Fiscal hawks, Sens. Lee and Paul, often oppose new spending unless paid for with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget

A House-passed bill that would extend a financial lifeline to thousands of victims suffering health problems from the 9/11 terrorist attacks is facing some political resistance in the Senate.

Utah Republican Mike Lee has a hold on the legislation, according to the nation’s top firefighters union. And Kentucky Republican Rand Paul objected Wednesday when New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand sought unanimous consent to bring up the bill for a vote.

NASA chief warns yearlong stopgap could cripple return to moon
Sen. Moran asked Administrator Bridenstine for help winning over former House colleagues

With celebrations underway marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the NASA administrator is warning that a full-year stopgap spending bill, like one recently floated by the Trump administration, would be “devastating” to U.S. efforts to get back to the moon.

Administrator Jim Bridenstine was at the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday for a hearing on space exploration to the moon and Mars, when Chairman Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, asked about the potential consequences of a yearlong continuing resolution, or CR.

Seth Moulton makes case that good foreign policy will beat Trump
Massachusetts Democrat and presidential long shot highlights his combat experience, alliance

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton ranks among the lower tier of 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls, but as a Marine Corps combat veteran, he argues that a foreign policy focus will be needed to lure moderates and Republicans to vote against President Donald Trump.

Moulton grabbed some attention in Iowa over the weekend with a full push for the president’s impeachment and removal.

Letters in Amy McGrath campaign launch video were postmarked the same day
Three-minute video announcing challenge to McConnell was titled ‘The Letter’ about her own unanswered plea

Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath’s three-minute campaign launch  video retells her personal story of getting no answer to letters to members of Congress, then features four Kentuckians writing to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for help with personal crises.

The video implies that McConnell never responded, but it appears the letters were sent Tuesday, the same day that McGrath announced her bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge him. 

Harry Reid still has a few punches left
Former Senate majority leader keeps working more than a year after pancreatic cancer diagnosis

LAS VEGAS — Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid retired from Congress back at the end of 2016, but the old boxer still has a few punches left for the institution he served in for 30 years, not to mention the New York Yankees. 

The 79-year-old Nevada Democrat met with CQ Roll Call in his office off the casino floor at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip last week to talk his health, politics and a little baseball.

No new legislative momentum after election security briefings
House has passed legislation, but there is no plan for moving a Senate bill

Sen. Marco Rubio emerged from a closed briefing on the Trump administration’s efforts to secure elections and made a renewed push for his own bipartisan deterrence legislation, even as he acknowledged there has not been momentum.

“In my view, they’re doing everything you can do,” Rubio said of the administration efforts. “Election interference is a broadly used term, and understand this is psychological warfare. It’s designed to weaken America from the inside out, to drive divisions internally so we fight with each other, to undermine our confidence in the elections and in our democracy and particularly to undermine individual candidates either because they don’t like that candidate or because they know someone else.”

Amy McGrath walks back remarks on Kavanaugh confirmation
Kentucky Democrat is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020

Updated 7:53 p.m. | Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath reversed course Wednesday night on whether she would have voted for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, just a day after launching her campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McGrath tweeted that she would have voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court, after saying in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal earlier in the day that she “probably would have voted for him.”

Harris and Ocasio-Cortez team up on improving housing access for people with past criminal records
New legislation would raise burden of proof for evicting people from public housing

California Sen. Kamala Harris and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are coming together on a new proposal to help with access to housing for previously incarcerated individuals.

The legislation from the two Democrats would, among other provisions, raise the burden of proof for making eviction and screening determinations related to criminal records. The lawmakers also want to ban the practice of allowing families to be evicted from public housing because of crimes that may be committed by visitors rather than residents.

Joe Manchin wants to block funding 2026 World Cup until women’s team gets equal pay
Competition to be hosted in North America would require federal support

A Senate appropriator wants to block spending of federal money to support the 2026 men’s World Cup until the U.S. women’s team receives equal pay.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III unveiled the two-page bill Tuesday afternoon that would block the use of funds to support the 2026 World Cup matches, which are scheduled to be shared among Canada, Mexico and the United States as part of a joint bid.

Why 2020 Democrats need to pay so much attention to Nevada
State Democratic Party will further boost influence with virtual caucus, early voting

BOULDER CITY, Nev. ⁠— Like most Nevada Democrats, Sen. Jacky Rosen always wants to see more 2020 candidates paying attention to her state, and a new early caucus voting process may further boost the party’s influence.

“What I try to tell people about Nevada is that you might know us for beautiful Lake Tahoe or [the] Las Vegas Strip, but we’re a string of communities that have been here a long time, people who deeply care and are committed to each other,” Rosen told CQ Roll Call on the side of the parade route here at the annual Damboree Celebration last week.

2020 hopefuls say Nevada Fourth of July celebration more American than the one in D.C.
Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Seth Moulton flip pancakes in Boulder City

BOULDER CITY, Nev. ⁠— The Democratic presidential candidates who made the trip to the “Damboree” on the morning of the Fourth of July say that this classic Nevada celebration better represents America than the military showcase headlined by President Donald Trump back in Washington, D.C.

After flipping pancakes and marching in a parade, Sen. Cory Booker praised the atmosphere, which featured supporters of a handful of 2020 Democratic candidates.

Democrats in Las Vegas cheer Elizabeth Warren’s bid to end private immigration prisons
2020 White House hopeful’s Senate office has been investigating private prison operators

EAST LAS VEGAS — Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s call to eliminate private immigration prisons drew raucous support Tuesday evening during a town hall in Las Vegas.

With 2020 Democratic presidential candidates campaigning across the country, the Massachusetts senator was the first of at least four making stops in Clark County over the July Fourth holiday.

Durbin and Duckworth want Major League Baseball to extend foul ball netting at all parks
Following announcements from Nationals and White Sox, Illinois senators press Manfred

Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth want Major League Baseball to expand netting to protect fans from foul balls across the entirety of the major leagues.

The Illinois senators have written to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred seeking an extension of netting at all ballparks. The letter, dated Thursday, follows announcements of extended netting by the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Nationals.

Perfect attendance? Not for Democratic presidential hopefuls
Members of Congress running for president have already been missing votes

Any time a member of Congress runs for president, there is a tension between voting on Capitol Hill and campaigning on the trail. It’s still relatively early in the 2020 cycle, but the seven senators and four House members running are already racking up absences. 

All of the sitting lawmakers who are seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination have already missed votes, some more than others. And with the first of the party’s presidential debates taking place on Wednesday and Thursday in Miami, several of them are likely to miss more votes this week. 

McConnell says no to delay on votes to accommodate Dem presidential hopefuls
Democrats had pushed for delay to give senators involved in presidential debates time to get back

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear Tuesday that Democrats are going to have to filibuster the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill if they do not want final votes this week.

The Kentucky Republican opened the Senate with criticism of Monday afternoon’s statement by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that defense policy bill votes, including consideration of a key amendment regarding limitations on the use of funds for war with Iran, should be delayed until after this week’s Democratic presidential debates.

Sinclair’s purchase of regional sports networks draws ire of Booker, Sanders and Warren
Three Democratic presidential hopefuls cite the broadcast group’s power in local TV

Sens. Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have gotten together to criticize the acquisition of 21 regional sports networks by Sinclair Broadcast Group, asking what the FCC and the Justice Department might be doing about it.

The sports channels, which televise major professional and college sports to regional audiences, came up for sale as a condition of the Disney acquisition of what had been Fox assets. 

Inhofe, Reed draw on professional, personal relationship in defense policy debate
Oklahoman Republican, Rhode Island Democrat find common ground

Maybe the annual Pentagon policy bill would have been popular regardless, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that the two members shepherding it on the Senate floor this week, Republican James M. Inhofe and Democrat Jack Reed, work together well as leaders of the Armed Services Committee and enjoy a genuinely deep friendship.

“I don’t think there’s two closer friends than Jack Reed and myself,” said Inhofe, the panel’s chairman.

Chuck Schumer wants Senate to vote on Iran, after the Democratic debates
New York Democrat: All senators should be present for vote on restricting Trump actions

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer wants senators to vote on restricting the ability of the Trump administration to go to war with Iran, but he suggested Monday that vote should not take place until after this week’s Democratic presidential debates.

“One of the best ways to avoid bumbling into a war is to have a robust, open debate, and for Congress to have some say,” the Democrat from New York said on the Senate floor.

Road ahead: House and Senate seek to pass dueling border funding bills
Defense policy, election security and spending also on the agenda ahead of July Fourth

Leaders in the House and Senate want to approve spending at least $4 billion more to address the influx of migrants and their humanitarian needs at the U.S.-Mexico border before the July Fourth recess.

Bills in the two chambers differ, however, raising doubts about whether there will be a resolution on President Donald Trump’s desk this month.