Louisa Terrell, head of the office of legislative affairs for the White House, is spearheading Biden’s team in one of the more challenging positions.
In the early days of the Biden administration, a meet-and-greet was held with members of Republicans Senate chiefs-of-staff. The Democratic delegation was led by Louisa Terrell, the White House director of Biden’s office of legislative affairs.
Terrell talked to the audience about how she works. She said that even in these politically polarized times, we should still try to compromise.
Furthermore, according to four sources who were aware of his conversation with White, Terrell said that he expected deals to be made during the meeting.
Terrell’s speech made it clear that she is one of the essential employees in the Office of the President, as she serves as a broker for legislative affairs. She takes proposals from the White House and acts as a guide when taking them through Congress to eventually become law and help influence legislation.
Joe Biden has been a senator for a long time. He is good at making bipartisan deals. When he was running for president, he said that the United States needs to make a big deal with both parties. He also says that we can do this now or in the future.
Enter Terrell. She is a longtime Biden hand and former chief of staff to senators. Her resume also includes stints at some of the most establishment corners of the modern American economy, including McKinsey, Yahoo, and Facebook. But she doesn’t have much of a public profile outside Washington’s corridors of power. Inside, Terrell is a vital player in Biden’s administration. She has been in crucial meetings with major legislative initiatives during his administration.
Terrell is close to Biden because of when she was younger. She has been the Executive Director of his Foundation and has worked as a Senior Adviser for him during his transition fund. Terrell is a graduate of Tufts University and Boston College’s law school.
In June, White House legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell left and counselor to President Joe Biden Steve Ricchetti.
Terrell is respected on both sides of the aisle for her effectiveness and amiability even as she has climbed to the highest ranks.
She’s one of a select number of aides who have been going back and forth between the White House and Congress, meeting with lawmakers at some of the tensest moments in recent negotiations on Covid-19 aid or, more recently, infrastructure.
“Her job is shuttle diplomacy,” said Tom Wheeler, who worked with Terrell during his time at the federal communications commission. “And so she works on both sides of the equation.”
In a rare interview, Terrell acknowledges the challenges of finding compromise and bipartisan agreements.
Despite Washington’s rigidity, the passage of an infrastructure bill is more illustrative of exceptions than the norm. For years, Congress has become paralyzed by rank partisanship – even what would seem like commonsense policy proposals get stuck in Capitol Hill.
It would help if you were realistic. You have to agree to disagree about some things. Let’s look in the backyard and see if we can find something we can work on together.
If not, keep in touch with me and ensure you get what you need from the agencies as you do your work.
There are many ways to get engaged, even if we’re not digging through brutal policies issues together.
Republican and Democratic Senators alike have noted that the Biden administration’s outreach to Congress is markedly different from the past two administrations.
While lawmakers and their aides think that the White House is easy to work with, it is different from the last two administrations.
The Donald Trump administration has a difficult time doing primary congressional outreach. But lobbyists for big companies say they are treated better.
“I don’t think I ever knew what was from the Trump White House. They need to make that clear if they get it,” said Senator Warner of Virginia regarding the executive lawmaking team’s legislative affairs.
But Democrats say that they also found the Obama administration’s outreach lacking.
“People felt like [Obama] didn’t respect the Senate,” said another Democratic senator granted anonymity to speak candidly. “He also looked down on senators, and he didn’t do the work that we thought was critical, which is center[ing] Senators in what’s going on, listening to them and making them feel heard.”
By comparison, staffers and lawmakers say that they are frequently in contact with this current legislative affairs team and feel open lines of communication.
One distinguishing factor of the Biden administration’s dealings with Congress has been making sure all party members feel heard. As Terrell put it, their team does not categorize them together only as Republicans or just Democrats.
“There are a lot of different elements involved that are very specific to Democrats,” Terrell said. “When we come together and talk about our strategy for success, we make it personal.
The same is true when Republicans get together to plan their strategy: they don’t just bunch up and work as one unit.”
Her column is also a measure of how long lawmakers have been in office.
Recently, she has been seen at meetings with lawmakers. Sometimes she goes with Steve Ricchetti, who is the president’s counselor. She also goes with Brian Deese and Susan Sher.
“Louisa does such an awesome job of keeping us on track and working together,” said Kristen Warner.
There are, of course, Republican aides and lawmakers who remain skeptical or wary of working with the Biden administration’s team, but there are others who speak respectfully of them. Some chiefs of staff rolled their eyes at the introductory meeting with Terrell and her team. But for others, it was a successful olive branch as well as an opportunity to get acquainted.
“I found her to be a very professional and concerned person. She was looking for feedback, which is what you would hope for.
I found she was straightforward.” Republican Joe Heck, who until recently served as chief of staff to Senator Deb Fischer.
‘She took the time to meet with my boss. She knew what she was talking about. My boss liked her a lot, even though he had not wanted to see her before because he had no opinion of her.’
Terrell is leading a team of 15 people to clear the way for the White House’s legislative agenda.
The White House liaison’s job requires them to be part negotiator, part fixer, and part diplomat – working with lawmakers on the Hill who disagree across party lines.
The team comprises longtime Hill veterans and policy experts from both parties, assigned to different members’ committees.
Terrell noted, “It’s kind of like picking up or checking in all the time and thinking about what their priorities are for that member.”
The personal effectiveness of Terrell’s role depends mainly on his proximity to the president.
Sarah Bianchi, a former official in the Obama White House who is now Biden’s nominee for deputy trade representative, spoke highly of Terrell because “when she speaks they know that she has a lot of credibility with him. It makes a big difference, particularly in that role.”
“Louisa and the president have something in common,” said Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who Terrell served as chief of staff for early on as a senator.
“They’re both creatures of the Senate and spend a lot of time here- having reverence for this institution goes a long way with senators on both sides.”
Asked what she would mark as a win for her team, Terrell pointed to the American Rescue Package, the Biden administration’s Covid relief bill.
“Look, the big victory was – getting the Rescue Package done was just huge,” Terrell said.
In college, Terrell rowed and played squash at the same time. In addition to her love of tennis, for decades, she practiced yoga in her home office.
“I think healthy competition is good,” Terrell said.