WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama is forming a White House leadership team that combines experienced Washington insiders who can help build a bridge with Congress and trusted associates who share his Chicago roots.
Obama comes to the Oval Office with an ambitious list of campaign promises that will require Capitol Hill’s cooperation and approval, and his team is heavy on the legislative experience that Obama is lacking.
During that time, Obama had Pete Rouse as his Senate chief of staff to take care of his business on the Hill. On Sunday, Obama named Rouse to be a senior adviser in his White House. Rouse has 24 years of experience as a top Senate aide, also running the offices of former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Obama’s Illinois colleague, Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin.
Other names that have begun to roll out in recently come with varying degrees of Washington experience. Obama is drawing on accomplished Chicago friends, longtime congressional aides and former Clinton administration officials.
The new chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., combines the Chicago roots and the legislative connections. Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain, an appointment announced Saturday, held the same role for Vice President Al Gore.
Obama has picked Mona Sutphen, a foreign policy expert, and Jim Messina as his deputy chiefs of staff. Like Rouse, Messina has served as chief of staff for three different lawmakers and has a vast network of relationships to show for it that he can tap on Obama’s behalf.
Philip Schiliro, who has more 25 years of experience working for Congress, is Obama’s liaison to Capitol Hill, another appointment announced Saturday.
Obama is keeping some campaign advisers close in the West Wing. On Saturday, he named longtime confidant Valerie Jarrett as a senior White House adviser, and he is expected to bring along Robert Gibbs as press secretary and David Axelrod as another senior adviser.
The senior adviser title is a vague one, but those who fill it can have held vast authority. Karl Rove and Karen Hughes had the title at one time in Bush’s White House.
Obama is expected to name campaign adviser Gregory Craig, who was President Clinton’s impeachment trial lawyer, as White House counsel.