The Leahy Loyalist

“I’m a little bit of an anomaly on the Hill,” says J.P. Dowd.

This illustration can only be used with the Nora Caplan-Bricker piece that originally ran in the 2/14/2015 issue of National Journal magazine.
National Journal
Nora Caplan-Bricker
Add to Briefcase
Nora Caplan-Bricker
Feb. 13, 2015, midnight

I’m a little bit of an an­om­aly on the Hill,” says J.P. Dowd. That’s cer­tainly an un­der­state­ment. Dowd, 50, has been work­ing for Patrick Leahy since 1986, when he joined the sen­at­or from Ver­mont’s re-elec­tion cam­paign straight out of col­lege. After the elec­tion, Dowd moved to Wash­ing­ton. He served as Leahy’s top aide on a range of is­sues—from de­fense to ap­pro­pri­ations—be­fore be­com­ing his le­gis­lat­ive dir­ect­or, then chief of staff. Today, Leahy is the longest-serving mem­ber of the up­per cham­ber—and there can’t be many chiefs of staff on the Hill who have as long a his­tory with their boss as Dowd does with Leahy.

What ad­vice might Dowd give to chiefs of staff who haven’t spent as many dec­ades on Cap­it­ol Hill? “Al­ways re­mem­ber that oth­er people want to get to ‘yes’ as well,” he says. “If that is the case, and in most cases it is, you have a bet­ter chance of get­ting to agree­ment.” (Nigel Buchanan)

One place where Leahy and Dowd have been seek­ing such agree­ment is on sen­ten­cing re­form. Since 2013, Leahy has been work­ing with Rand Paul on a pro­pos­al that would al­low fed­er­al judges to im­pose sen­tences be­low the man­dat­ory min­im­um in many cases. “When it comes to is­sues, you have to have the ex­per­i­ence and the lead­er­ship to look bey­ond parties. Here was an ex­ample of a con­ver­gence of be­liefs from two op­pos­ite poles of the parties. There are cases when you peel back the polit­ic­al parties and the large cap­it­al ‘P,’ and people have agree­ments on things,” Dowd says. “It’s an im­port­ant bill. “¦ We’re go­ing to try and get that through.”

Dowd is also eager to tout a sys­tem that he thinks worked bet­ter when he first ar­rived at the Sen­ate: com­mit­tees. “I think it would be good for more of the Sen­ate to get back to [build­ing] con­sensus by go­ing through the com­mit­tee pro­cess,” he says. Leahy is the rank­ing mem­ber on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee (which is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing the sen­ten­cing-re­form pro­pos­al), as well as the most seni­or mem­ber of the Ap­pro­pri­ations and Ag­ri­cul­ture com­mit­tees. “It is la­bor­i­ous, and it takes more time” than hash­ing out de­bates on so­cial me­dia and talk shows, Dowd notes. “But it’s a way to have a high­er chance of get­ting your bill suc­cess­fully through the floor, and hope­fully in­to law.”

De­ciders is a re­cur­ring fea­ture about how key play­ers in Wash­ing­ton make polit­ic­al and policy de­cisions.

What We're Following See More »
HE WAS 85
Former Rep. Joseph McDade Dies
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Former Rep. Joseph McDade, an 18-term Republican congressman who was known for bringing federal dollars home to his northeastern Pennsylvania district and who was acquitted in 1996 on a bribery charge," died Sunday. He served in the House from 1963-99 and was a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

Source:
ANALYSIS INCOMPLETE DUE TO DEADLINE
CBO: “Millions” Would Lose Coverage Under Graham-Cassidy
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Congressional Budget Office projected Monday that the last-ditch GOP ObamaCare repeal bill would result in 'millions' of people losing coverage. The agency did not give a specific number given a lack of time to do the analysis before a vote." CBO also said the bill would reduce deficits by $133 billion over ten years.

Source:
END OF THE ROAD
Susan Collins a “No” on Graham-Cassidy
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
ASKS ATTORNEYS IF THE ISSUE IS MOOT
Supreme Court Removes Travel Ban Case from Calendar
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Supreme Court on Monday dropped the dispute over President Trump's travel ban from its oral argument calendar. The high court directed attorneys for both sides to submit 10-page briefs on whether they view the case as moot by noon on Oct. 5. Both sides must address whether the expirationof Trump's travel ban order on Sunday rendered the case moot and whether the new order from the president renders the existing litigation moot."

Source:
PROTESTERS BEING ARRESTED
Graham-Cassidy Hearing Recesses
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login