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Senate Democrats happy with Obama staff changes

Dec. 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate say the changes in the White House staff this week could help President Obama recover from the healthcare debacle.

Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, called the staff shakeup "long overdue," The Hill reported Saturday.

Obama brought in John Podesta, a veteran of President Bill Clinton's administration, to deal with energy and climate change, named his former legislative director Phil Schiliro to oversee the Affordable Care Act and replaced Miguel Rodriguez with Katie Beirne Fallon as director of legislative affairs. Rockefeller said Senate leaders who met with Denis McDonough, Obama's chief of staff, stopped just short of demanding staff changes.

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada had high praise for Podesta and Beirne Fallon, who formerly headed the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center.

"She's just wonderful. Podesta and Katie Beirne, that's going to help so much in getting good political judgment in the White House," Reid told Bloomberg Television on Friday.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said Beirne Fallon, who served as his aide, "will convey the president's views strongly but in a friendly nice way."

Sen.Dianne Feinstein of California said she hopes Obama pays more attention to Democrats in Congress.

"I think the president in terms of domestic issues very much needs the Congress and the degree to which he can become closer and more personal with members, the better," she said.

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