WH hires new liaison for Congress

The White House on Friday named Katie Beirne Fallon as its new legislative affairs office director.

Beirne Fallon, a former staffer from Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) office, will replace Miguel Rodriguez, who the White House said was leaving to pursue opportunities outside the administration.  

The announcement came after weeks of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and their staff that the White House and Capitol Hill messaging was not in sync. Democrats also said they lacked a good point of contact at the White House. 

Beirne Fallon is the White House’s deputy communications director. She had worked for Schumer as policy director at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and is married to Brian Fallon, Schumer’s former spokesman who now works for the administration.

Beirne Fallon has close ties to Senate Democratic leadership, and her hiring suggests the White House is working hard to shore up its relationship with Senate allies unhappy with the office of legislative affairs.

Senate Democrats and the administration are worried about next year’s midterm elections. If Republicans were to retake the Senate, it would make President Obama a lame-duck for his final two years in office.

Democrats have been deeply angry over the rollout of ObamaCare, which they believe is hurting their chances of retaining the Senate.

The hiring comes on the heels of the White House announcing that the former director of legislative affairs, Phil Schiliro, would be returning to the White House to spearhead healthcare implementation and messaging. John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff for President Clinton, is also coming on as an adviser in another move meant to soothe Democratic fears.

A senior administration official said White House chief of staff Denis McDonough had been thinking about how to restructure legislative affairs so that it is “deemed to be more responsive to concerns on the Hill and better calibrated to promote the president's agenda.”

In a statement, Obama said Beirne Fallon has “the deep expertise and strong relationships required to build on the progress we’ve made this year and advance my top priority: creating jobs and expanding broad-based growth and opportunity for every American.”

McDonough called Beirne Fallon “whip smart,” and said she fully understands the challenges and opportunities members of Congress face every day.

“This is an administration committed to working with members from both parties to find common sense ways to grow the economy for all Americans. There is nobody better suited to lead our efforts on the Hill than Katie,” the statement said.

While the wording of the announcement made it clear Rodriguez was forced out, Obama in a statement thanked him for his work in office.

“Throughout some of this year’s most contentious legislative battles, Miguel worked tirelessly to bridge the partisan divide, forge consensus, and seek out solutions that helped us move forward,” the statement said.

In the coming weeks, Beirne Fallon will coordinate implementation of the president’s climate action plan with the Hill, manage legislative strategy around immigration reform and ensure a better flow of communication around the healthcare law’s implementation, according to a senior administration official.

The official said Beirne Fallon will be spending the next few weeks consulting with lawmakers on 2014 agenda priorities before stepping into her new role in January.