Andrews got to work repairing his tattered image soon after the 2008 elections, when he began immersing himself in the health care reform debate. An attorney by trade, Andrews quickly became one of Pelosi’s top advisers on the issue and was dispatched to brief freshman and sophomore Members. He even became part of a rapid-response team Democrats launched in August 2009 just as the messaging wars heated up over the issue in town hall events across the country. Andrews said his role “helped me get to know a lot of Members better.” Several observers from the time agreed.
“At both a Member and staff level he was viewed as very helpful in helping people understand the health care law as it was being put together,” one Democratic strategist explained. “I really think that that was what endeared him to Pelosi.”
Some Members were not thrilled with Andrews’ role during the health care fight: Multiple Democratic sources said that Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who at the time chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, was particularly irked by his colleague’s high-profile assignment. Andrews and Pallone have clashed over the years; both have had ambitions beyond the House.
All seven New Jersey House Democrats actively backed Lautenberg over Andrews in the 2008 contest and publicly called on Andrews to withdraw. After Andrews decided to run to keep his House seat, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) told the New York Times that Andrews was “disingenuous” and that his decision to replace his wife on the ballot to keep his seat represented “a flaw in his character.”
Rep. Allyson Schwartz, another rising lieutenant in Pelosi’s circle, said she doesn’t believe ill will persists for Andrews in the broader Caucus.
“For many of us, it’s a New Jersey issue,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said. “We obviously have Members who have looked to run for higher office, and some of them make it and some of them don’t.”
Schwartz also noted that Andrews has since become a more active member.
“It does certainly mean that when Members are running for higher office, it’s harder for them to be engaged substantively and politically,” she said. “So it’s clear that since he decided to stay in Congress, he has very clearly been engaged and willing to put his skills to work on behalf of the Caucus.”
Andrews won’t say what his next move might be, but he has long held a seat on the Education and Workforce Committee, and some have suggested he may have designs on a committee chairmanship or a leadership post.
Lautenberg, however, said that Andrews still has some work to do to repair his image.
“I think his race in 2008 was seriously damaging, and we’ll have to see what the future holds,” Lautenberg said.