Schiappa, left, departed from the Senate last week, taking with him a wealth of institutional knowledge gleaned from his decades of service.
“When that institutional memory is lost, it is very hard to replace,” Gold said. “Without a core of persons like Dave Schiappa, who revere the Senate and respect its history, the institution is inevitably weakened. I fear that loss is accelerating.”
Gold worked with Schiappa as floor adviser and counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Former Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin had nothing but praise for Schiappa. “He brought a keen intelligence, bedrock integrity, and marvelous sense of humor to every meeting I ever had with him, and was a stellar examplar of civility (and a stress-buster) in an arena where the constant political pressure and stress can just grind an individual to dust. I still believe that the Senate was designed by the Framers for conciliation and compromise, and that its rules, precedents and procedures have evolved consistent with the Framers’ design. If more of the elected members of the body embraced Dave Schiappa’s approach to his work, it would be a far better place,” Frumin said in an email.
Martin Paone, a longtime Democratic staffer who served as both majority and minority secretary, explained the positions in a 2010 oral history interview with the Senate historical office.
“As the majority secretary, you work with them on trying to set that schedule. And with the chairmen, ‘What bill do you want to call up next?’ The minority secretary is: ‘Okay, you’re finding out what bill is coming up next,’” Paone said. “You then discuss with the minority leader, ‘These are the bills, this is the next item, how do we want to react to it? Do we have things we want to do to it?’”
In recent years, majority leaders have more frequently restricted the offering of extraneous amendments (and sometimes even germane ones) through a procedural device known as “filling the amendment tree” to keep tighter control of the floor.
Paone was Schiappa’s opposite on the Democratic side when he left in 2008. When he retired, he told CQ Roll Call that he and Schiappa would joke about trading speech lines depending on which party held the majority.
Schiappa’s parliamentary expertise was among the qualities cited in a lengthy resolution honoring his legacy as an “invaluable member of the Senate family.”
As secretary of the minority, Schiappa acted as a liaison between Republican and Democratic leadership. His expert wheeling and dealing won him a cowboy catcall of sorts from Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Republican Policy Committee chairman. The veteran staffer navigated politics according to the “Code of the West,” Barrasso said. Tenants of the code include “live with courage,” “take pride in your work” and “speak less and say more.”
“This is a man, who, when he speaks, we all listen,” he said.
Schiappa was around until the end of the evening on Aug. 1, when the chamber finished up legislative business ahead of the August recess. He could be seen on the floor, engaged as always in the pre-recess deal-making. Other top leadership staffers from both sides of the aisle bid Schiappa farewell on the floor as senators gave the final speeches before the break, and he sat through one final quorum call.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.