Schiliro Expected to Lead Obama Legislative Affairs Team

Posted November 5, 2008 at 2:13pm

Updated 3:42 p.m.

Veteran Congressional aide Phil Schiliro will head up President-elect Obama’s legislative affairs transition effort, the transition office announced today, and he is expected to become the new administration’s White House legislative affairs director, several senior Democratic sources confirmed.

Schiliro, who has been serving as Obama’s chief conduit to Capitol Hill since July 2007, most recently served as the senior aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). While most White House legislative affairs directors have hailed from K Street, Obama turned to the Hill — keeping with his pledge to purge the influence of lobbyists from his administration.

Schiliro has a long tenure on Capitol Hill. In addition to spending years on the House side with Waxman, he also worked in the Senate for then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.). In 1994, Schiliro made an unsuccessful run of his own for Congress in New York’s 4th district.

One Democratic source cast Schiliro’s selection as “a good thing and a smart thing,” pointing to his many years of Congressional experience and his service in both chambers. Schiliro also has relationships in both the House and the Senate, a critical element to the legislative affairs operation charged with lobbying Congress on behalf of the president.

“One of the most important things in the office of legislative affairs at the White House is that the person is of significant stature so that Members don’t feel they need to talk to someone else, too,” such as the president’s chief of staff or a Cabinet official, this source said.

If tapped to lead Obama’s legislative affairs shop, many believe he would avoid many of the pitfalls of the outgoing Bush administration. Often criticized for failing to communicate with Capitol Hill, the Congressional liaisons regularly took heat for leaving Members out of the loop on major policy initiatives.

Obama also formally announced other members of his transition team today, tapping President Clinton’s White House chief of staff John Podesta, senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and Obama Senate office chief of staff Pete Rouse to lead the effort, according to a statement by the campaign.

The other transition officers are Chris Lu, executive director; Dan Pfeiffer, communications director; Stephanie Cutter, chief spokeswoman; Cassandra Butts, general counsel; Jim Messina, personnel director; Patrick Gaspard, associate personnel director; Christine Varney, personnel counsel; Melody Barnes and Lisa Brown, co-directors of agency review; Michael Strautmanis, director of public liaison and intergovernmental affairs; and Katy Kale and Brad Kiley, directors of operations.

The leaders of the transition effort will be assisted by a board of advisers that has been informally planning for a possible presidential transition. The board consists of Carol Browner, William Daley, Christopher Edley, Michael Froman, Julius Genachowski, Donald Gips, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-Ariz.), Federico Peña, Susan Rice, Sonal Shah, Mark Gitenstein and Ted Kaufman. Gitenstein and Kaufman will serve as co-chairs of Vice President-elect Biden’s transition team.