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A Quiet Departure for Obama’s Top Lobbyist

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Rob Nabors, who took over as legislative affairs director this week, had nothing but praise for Schiliro and the way he ran the legislative affairs operation.

“I am proud and slightly overwhelmed whenever anyone even implies that I could be the ‘new Phil,’” he said.

Nabors, who previously served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and was a senior adviser to Emanuel, said he has been learning from Schiliro over the years that they have worked together. Nabors also served as the staff director on the House Appropriations Committee when Schiliro worked for Waxman.

Schiliro’s success as the legislative affairs director lies in him being “very good about giving the staff the room to run and do their job,” Nabors said. He is “incredibly thoughtful and strategic,” but he “doesn’t opine on everything. Just the important things,” Nabors said.

Nabors said he is fortunate to already know the legislative affairs team “pretty well” because Schiliro made a point to bring him into meetings over the past two years. And it doesn’t hurt that Nabors considers Schiliro one of his “closest friends.”

Schiliro didn’t have much advice for Nabors but signaled that his experience on Capitol Hill will prove essential for managing the twists and turns of an unpredictable legislative process.

“Generally, things take longer than you think they will,” he said, noting the only real surprise that he encountered on the job was that “we were able to keep to schedule pretty regularly.”

Despite the administration being criticized for falling behind on health care reform, Schiliro said many were surprised it passed by March 2010.

“So even though people had the sense we were running behind, from a Congressional standpoint, that was lightning quick,” he said.

It remains to be seen how long Schiliro will stay at the White House; he’s coming up on 30 years of public service, a tenure that makes him very attractive to the private sector. But he maintains that he hasn’t “really thought about that” and, for now, is focused on sorting out what he will do in his role as a senior adviser to Obama.

“The president has some things he wants me to work on; he thinks there are a couple things more to do before I go,” Schiliro said. “So that’s what I’m going to do.”

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