GOP Aide Migration Flowing to House
For Senate staffers, the House is rarely seen as the land of opportunity.
But since November, the new House majority has drawn more than a half-dozen Senate Republican aides to jobs in the offices of GOP leadership or committees.
Traditionally, it’s much more common for House staffers to make the leap to the Senate, often considered more prestigious, or go to K Street. But aides say the lure of working in the majority, where they can play a key role in career-making legislation and potentially take home a bigger paycheck in more senior positions, is making that path more attractive.
“It’s probably always happened, but I don’t think we’ve seen concentration like this,” one Republican lobbyist said, adding, “Working in the majority is substantially more enjoyable.”
The fast pace can also be a draw.
“It’s a lot more fun,” one Republican leadership aide said.
For others, the decision to move to the House, or rejoin the House ranks, followed their boss’s retirement. In particular, staffers for former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) have found a home in the House.
Laena Fallon, press secretary for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), spent more than five years as an aide to Gregg, working her way up from staff assistant to communications director. But the New Hampshire native said her time in the Senate didn’t make it any easier of an adjustment to working on the other side of the Capitol.
“I felt like being back to day one,” Fallon said. “I was getting lost in the Capitol again. I’d been in the Senate nearly six years, but all of a sudden I’m getting lost like an intern.”
Still, she likes the change of pace.
“The House doesn’t have the same grace or old-school style, institutional decorum, but it’s got so much energy and excitement and it’s really a lot of fun,” Fallon said.
The House also has been a draw for former Senate Budget Committee staffers who worked for Gregg, who served as chairman of the panel before his departure.
Roger Mahan, Nicole Foltz and Winnie Chang all left the Senate Budget Committee for the House. For Mahan and Chang it was a homecoming of sorts. Both staffers previously worked for the House Budget Committee.
Mahan is now working on budget policy for Cantor’s leadership office. Chang is working on the House Appropriations panel, and Foltz is working for the House Budget panel.
Other aides decided to make the jump even though their Senate bosses remained in office.
Holt Lackey, who most recently was counsel to Sen. John Cornyn, has joined the office of another Texas Republican, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith. Lackey is serving as counsel on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. He is also assisting on various issues in that subcommittee, including antitrust.
Similarly, Monica Popp left her job as a health care legislative assistant in the office of Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) to join the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
But it’s not just committee and leadership offices that are drawing Senate aides.
Freshman Rep. Kristi Noem has also picked off two former Senate staffers. The South Dakota Republican, who is serving as one of two freshmen in elected leadership, told Roll Call this fall that hiring veteran Hill aides was important to “be as effective” as she could.
Noem Chief of Staff Jordan Stoick and Communications Director Joshua Shields both spent several years working in the Senate. Stoick worked for the Senate Republican Conference and for Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.). Shields spent a handful of years as a legislative assistant to Wicker Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
The Senate veterans said the biggest difference between the chambers is resources, particularly for an at-large House Member, where constituents often expect the same amount of attention and speed to their inquiries as Senators give.
“Senate offices have more staff, more resources,” Shields said. “House offices have to do more with less.”
Despite the pressure to do more, Shields said there are definite upsides to working in the House.
“The culture here is flatter, more collaborative within an office,” Shields said. “That’s kind of fun and exciting to be part of.”