POLITICS: PennAve

Obama taps new legislative affairs director

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Deputy communications director Katie Beirne Fallon will replace Miguel Rodriguez as President Obama's legislative affairs chief, the White House announced on Friday.

President Obama praised Fallon as a “veteran of Congress” with “deep expertise and strong relationships,” in a statement.

The president said Fallon who has served on his communications team since May would “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.”

Before joining the White House, Fallon worked extensively on Capitol Hill, beginning as policy director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2005 to 2006, when Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. chaired the group. She followed that stint with a year at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, then worked as Schumer's legislative director. From 2011 until she joined the administration, she worked with the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, the messaging operation for the party's senators.

Obama praised outgoing legislative affairs director Rodriguez, saying that “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.”

“As the son of immigrants, I know Miguel took particular pride in the Senate’s passage of a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform plan – something that we are going to see through,” Obama added.

Rodriguez though well-liked on Capitol Hill, also received criticism from some who said that he did not play a forceful enough roll pushing the administration’s priorities through Congress and working with Democratic lawmakers.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough though said Rodriguez had “helped manage some of the most complex and sensitive challenges we faced on the Hill and will be missed immensely” in a statement.

McDonough called Fallon “whip smart” and said “there is nobody better suited to lead our efforts on the Hill than Katie.”

Fallon, though, faces tough challenges in the new year.

Many of President Obama’s legislative priorities stalled, with the GOP-controlled House failing to move forward on immigration reform after a bipartisan bill passed the Senate. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he will pass immigration reform piecemeal, as opposed to a comprehensive approach, and will only move legislation that has a support of a majority of the GOP caucus.

Obama also faced a high profile defeat on gun control, with senators rejecting his calls for tougher background checks, and restrictions on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips, after the school massacre in Newton, Conn.

White House correspondent Brian Hughes contributed.

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