Heard on the Hill

Shelby: Appropriations’ First-Ever Female Staff Director Is ‘Tough, Absolutely’

Shannon Hines says she hasn’t had much time to think about her breakthrough role

Shannon Hines, left, and Sen. Richard C. Shelby at the June 28 full committee markup. (Courtesy of the Appropriations Committee)

For the first time ever, a female staff director has the reins of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Shannon Hines took the job after her longtime boss, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, became chairman in April.

“It is truly an honor to be the first female staff director, but I view it as just continuing in the trend that the chairman always wants us to continue in — which is keep working, keep your head down, work hard, get the job done,” said Hines, 45.

The breakthrough didn’t sink in right away. Former committee staffers had to fill her in.

“I didn’t realize that I was the first,” she said. “A number of former staff directors mentioned it to me and were very gracious in congratulating me. … I’ve been taken aback, frankly.”

At the end of June, the committee approved all 12 fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills, so Hines has been pretty busy. With a “big push to return to regular order,” she hasn’t had much time to think about the milestone.

Hines has spent nearly two decades working for Shelby, who said she was the logical choice for the role.

“She’s off to a good start; you can tell from what’s going on in the committee thus far,” the Alabama Republican said. “She’s on top of things, I know that. Confident, yes. Diligent, yes. Tough, absolutely.”

The move came after Thad Cochran left Congress — and the Appropriations gavel — behind for health reasons. Shelby got the top spot on the panel, and Hines followed him over from the Rules Committee, where she briefly served as staff director.

“She’s very experienced and very smart,” the senator said.

As for her future on the Appropriations Committee?

“I think that they will respect Shannon,” Shelby said about his Senate colleagues.

[Women on the Verge of a Breakthrough on House Appropriations]

Hines got her start on Capitol Hill by passing her résumé around at the beginning of the 104th Congress after she graduated from college in December 1994.

“[I] knew that I wanted to come to the Hill and work. I literally knew one person in Sen. [Jesse] Helms office and just used them as my touchstone,” she said.

She landed a series of jobs, first as a staff assistant to freshman Rep. Fred Heineman of North Carolina, and then as a legislative assistant to Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas.

By 1999 she had joined Shelby’s personal office, where she steadily rose through the ranks, from legislative assistant to legislative director to chief of staff.

The Senate veteran has also worked on the Banking Committee as a senior professional staff member and on the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

Now she can add her latest role to the list.

“The chairman has given me many opportunities to gain enormous amounts of background and knowledge in various different positions,” Hines said of her varied career. “I think that has really helped serve me well.”

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