2019

Clete Willems is trading in the White House for K Street
“My biggest joke now is I went to become a partner in a law firm, so I can work less”

Clete Willems has gone from chauffeuring Rep. Paul D. Ryan to working on trade policy at the White House to partnering at the Akin Gump law firm on K Street. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The timing of Clete Willems’ recent departure from the White House seemed a bit inopportune what with negotiations over trade disputes with China hitting a pivotal point. But the international economics adviser to the president says he had other commitments to keep.

Though the Trump White House has a reputation for unpredictability and plenty of staffing drama, Willems says the reason for his departure was more personal. When he took on the new gig at the beginning of the Trump administration, he made a pact with his wife: When they had a second child, he would head for the exit. His daughter was born in March.

Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez need a ‘chief of change’ or a change of staff?
Who is calling the shots in New York Democrat’s office?

By going after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats, Saikat Chakrabarti, left, chief of staff to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, broke a cardinal rule of the unwritten Hill staffer code, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Mention the name Saikat Chakrabarti to Democratic chiefs of staff on Capitol Hill, and you’ll get an array of fed-up responses to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s high-profile top aide, from “Ugh” to “What the (expletive)?” to “He’s got to go.”

Although staffer feuds are not uncommon, the Harvard-educated former tech executive who leads AOC’s office has recently committed the two great sins against the unwritten code of Capitol Hill staffers. The first is to never upstage the boss.

Spanberger’s chief of staff says House is like a startup
Roscoe Jones Jr. relishes chamber’s “fast pace” after move from the Senate

Roscoe Jones Jr. compares his move from Senate aide to House chief of staff to “going from General Motors to a startup.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After years of working for an incumbent senator holding a safe seat, Roscoe Jones Jr. was ready to build something from scratch.

“It was like going from General Motors to a startup,” he said. Trading in his role as Dianne Feinstein’s legislative director, he moved over to the House, accepting a job as chief of staff for newcomer Abigail Spanberger.

Former GOP staffer running for Virginia delegate knows not to knock the ‘swamp’
Hill experience isn’t a liability for D.J. Jordan on the campaign trail

Former Hill staffer D.J. Jordan, here at a July Fourth parade in Daly City, Va., is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. (Courtesy D.J. Jordan)

When D.J. Jordan was a Hill staffer, his drive into the city took an hour and 15 minutes, and that was on a good day. He turned to the fine art of slugging — picking up fellow commuters at designated parking lots to reach a quorum for the HOV-3 express lanes.

“It has literally been my personal nightmare,” Jordan said. “I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve missed family dinner and missed my son’s football practice and missed my daughter’s dance rehearsal or recital because I’m stuck in traffic.”

Andy Kim is paying his pen pal forward
New Jersey Democrat recalls lessons from ex-boss and foreign policy giant Richard Lugar

New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim still draws inspiration from his brief stint as an aide to former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New Jersey Democrat Andy Kim learned a lot of what he knows about governing from two of his mentors — the late Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and the late Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the 2012 Benghazi attack.

One started out as a pen pal, the other as an officemate. And after stints at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department and the Pentagon, those lessons still come in handy for Kim, one of 23 House freshmen under the age of 40. 

Fly me to the moon … before China does
Trump administration wants to get there by 2024, but the competition will be stiff

The image of a Saturn V, the rocket that sent Apollo 11 into orbit in 1969, is projected Tuesday on the Washington Monument. Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A new space race is on, and this time it’s the U.S. versus China rather than the former Soviet Union.

In the coming years, NASA and the China National Space Administration separately plan to send a series of missions to the moon with the goal of having a strong presence on its south pole — heightening the likelihood of tension and conflict.

Esper, Milley nominations head to floor; Hyten‘s fate unclear
McConnell lined up Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday

Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper prepares to testify during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday advanced to the floor the nominations for Mark Esper to be Defense secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly filed cloture on the nomination, lining up a Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday.

Senate schedules debate on 9/11 victims compensation bill
The bill sailed through the House last week, but Senate fiscal hawks worried about price tag

Comedian and advocate Jon Stewart along with 9/11 responders are seen on the Speaker’s balcony after a meeting in the Capitol with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders have agreed to take up a bill Tuesday that would extend a financial lifeline to thousands of victims suffering health problems from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The bill sailed through the House last week on a 402-12 vote, but has faced resistance in the Senate from fiscal hawks worried about its price tag. The measure would effectively make permanent a special compensation fund for first responders and other victims of the 2001 attacks, while providing however much money is needed to pay all eligible claims.

Lawmakers hint at regulatory models for Facebook cryptocurrency
Libra: ‘Which is it, fish or fowl?’

“This looks exactly like an exchange-traded fund,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House members suggested Wednesday that Facebook Inc.‘s proposed cryptocurrency could be deemed an exchange-traded fund, a currency or a commodity, all of which could require some degree of regulatory oversight.

“What we’re struggling with is: What are you?” said Democratic Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter summing up a four-hour House Financial Services Committee grilling of a company executive about the proposed cryptocurrency known as Libra.

Mnuchin says there is a topline agreement on spending caps and debt limit
Treasury secretary says talks continue on offsets and structure of a deal

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the White House, Senate and House have an agreement on a two-year debt ceiling increase. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that agreement has been reached on spending levels for fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 as well as a two-year extension of the debt limit.

“The good news is we’ve reached an agreement between the administration, the House and the Senate on topline numbers for both year one and year two. We’re now discussing offsets as well as certain structural issues. And we’ve agreed as part of that deal there would be a long-term, two-year debt ceiling increase,” Mnuchin said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “So, I think, all of our first choice is to reach an overall agreement and we’re working hard to do that. But if for whatever reason we don’t get there in time, I am encouraging a debt ceiling increase.”