President Barack Obama replaced his chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill today, concluding that his legislative affairs director for the past year had lost the confidence of too many congressional Democrats and made minimal inroads with the Republicans.
Katie Beirne Fallon will be the fourth person Obama has had in the job. She's been working in the West Wing as the president’s deputy communications director only since the summer. Before that, she was a top aide to Sen. Charles. E. Schumer of New York, serving as staff director of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center.
In that post, the 37-year-old Fallon won effusive praise from both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. And White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough presumably picked her because she is plugged in to the Democratic leadership on the Hill, which will play the central role in shepherding whatever low-impact legislative agenda the president pushes in 2014.
Obama’s main objective will be to help his party’s candidates do well enough in the midterms that they can assist him in spending his final two years as something more than a policymaking lame duck. Beyond advancing bills, that will also mean a White House messaging operation that helps congressional Democrats counter the sustained criticism of Obamacare that Republicans plan to make a main campaign theme.
Out of a job is Miguel Rodriguez, who was seen as an amiable but ineffectual lobbyist for the president’s legislative agenda — and someone with such a low profile that many senior lawmakers in both parties did not know who he was. Rodriguez took the post at the start of Obama’s second term, after spending the previous four years as State Department legislative affairs director. (Before that he’d been Hillary Rodham Clinton’s legislative director in the Senate.)
The second legislative affairs boss for Obama was Rob Nabors, a former House Appropriations staff director who’s now a deputy White House chief of staff. The first and most legislatively successful person in the job, veteran House Democratic aide Phil Schiliro, is rejoining the White House staff in the coming days for a several-month stint troubleshooting relations with the Hill on the Obamacare rollout.
Obama said of Fallon in a statement: “As a veteran of Congress, and my deputy director of Communications, she has the deep expertise and strong relationships required to build on the progress we’ve made this year and advance my top priority: creating jobs and expanding broad-based growth and opportunity for every American.”
She has been married for the past two years to Brian Fallon, who moved to the Justice Department as media operations boss this spring, after a long run as Schumer’s principal spokesman.