There may be no office inside the White House whose precise role is more difficult to define than that of Legislative Affairs.
Bryce Harlow, often called the "father" of the office since he started it in the Eisenhower administration, loftily said it existed for "building bridges across the yawning constitutional chasm" between the executive and legislative branches. But it was left to a Brit to come up with an earthier definition. When first lady Barbara Bush introduced Fred McClure to Prince Philip, she said he was in charge of congressional relations for her husband. Prince Philip paused, looked at McClure, and said, "Ah, the spear catcher."
It was but one of many times since Eisenhower's presidency that the office has been redefined. The reality is that the office's role has changed with every president. Sometimes the office carries the president's message to Congress; other times, it carries Congress's sentiments to the president. Sometimes it wields veto threats; other times, it dispenses favors to lawmakers.
Even today, for his second term, President Obama seems to be trying something a little different with a director little known on Capitol Hill but enjoying the president's full confidence. Officially, the White House states that the office "is responsible for advancing the president's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill," adding, "Every day, the Legislative Affairs team is on the front lines, working with senators, representatives, and their staffs to promote the president's priorities." Here are people at the heart of the office today: