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 »
“DAILY SHOW” CORRESPONDENT
Michelle Wolf to Headline Correspondents Dinner
14 minutes ago
THE DETAILS
CUTS REFERENCES TO CONTRACEPTIVES AND ABORTION
State Department Cutting Womens’ Rights Language From Report
55 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Officials at the department have been told to trim parts of the annual report on global human rights that talk about family planning and the amount of access women have to contraceptives and abortion." The directive came from a top aide to Rex Tillerson. "A spokesperson from the State Department said that changes were made for 'clarity'" and that the department is not "downgrading coverage of LGBT or women's issues."

Source:
NEXT WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY
Rev. Billy Graham to Lie in Honor at Capitol Rotunda
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
SECOND TIME FBI FAILED TO ACT
FBI Failed To Act On Parkland Shooter Tip
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The FBI has reported that it failed to respond to a warning from "a person close to" Nikolas Cruz, the teen accused of killing 17 people at Parkland High School on Thursday. "It was the second time the FBI apparently failed to follow up on Cruz." On the first occasion, it failed to properly investigate Cruz after it was reported to them that he left the following comment on a Youtube video: "Im going to be a school shooter."

Source:
FBI MISSED TIP ON PARKLAND SHOOTER
Florida Governor Calls on FBI Director to Resign
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Florida Governor Rick Scott called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign following revelations that the FBI had failed to adequately investigate multiple warnings about Parkland High School gunman Nikolas Cruz. “The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,'" said Scott. '...We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.'" According to an FBI statement, the FBI failed to inform local offices of information regarding "Cruz's desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting."

Source:
×
×

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