Louisa Terrell — According to insiders, a member of President Joe Biden’s longest-serving staff will leave the White House before the end of July. Louisa Terrell is the White House director of legislative affairs, and she played a key role in assembling a staff to act as the president’s eyes and ears in Congress.
Terrell’s public profile is a little lower, but she has enormous power behind the scenes. She is the president’s official point of contact for everything that happens on Capitol Hill, with a staff serving as his eyes and ears. Louisa Terrell has been a vocal supporter of Vice President Joe Biden’s legislative victories, executive branch appointees, and judicial candidates. Her work for President Barack Obama began more than two decades ago, when Biden was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Democrats controlled the two chambers of Congress during Biden’s first two years in office. During this period, the administration achieved a number of legislative victories, including the Covid-focused American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Despite the challenges of putting together a geographically and ideologically diverse Democratic Party on Capitol Hill. That paled in comparison to the job of representing the president in Congress once Republicans gained control of the House. The Republican Party’s dedication to overseeing and investigating the Biden administration, as well as the legislative agenda, has progressed substantially.
Following the 2022 midterm elections, Louisa Terrell stressed the ties she and her team had quietly built with Republicans in order for them not to “parachute in” to offices of members in leadership positions on the other side of the aisle.
As the Republicans took over the White House, Jeff Zients took over as chief of staff from Ron Klain, and he stated that he relied on Terrell so much that they corresponded even before they arrived at the office in the morning, late at night after they departed, and at least five times a day.
Senator Chuck Schumer lauded Louisa Terrell’s commitment and strategic participation, describing it as the “cornerstone” of Biden’s administration and the Democratic Party’s historic win.
“She’s worked tirelessly to help diversify the federal bench, confirm the president’s well qualified and historic nominees, and pass the most aggressive and successful legislative agenda in generations,” said Schumer.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries applauded Terrell, saying:
“On behalf of the House Democratic Caucus, we are tremendously grateful to Louisa Terrell for her partnership as we advanced President Biden’s historic legislative agenda over the last two years. From the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to the Inflation Reduction Act to averting a catastrophic default on our debt, Louisa has been there with us every step of the way.”
Connecting with the Bidens
When Louisa Terrell began her job as a staff member for then-Senator Biden on the Judiciary Committee following law school, she characterized herself as “just a gal from Delaware” who was in awe of the skilled legal clerks and seasoned employees around her. Terrell rose up the ranks fast, eventually becoming Vice President Joe Biden’s deputy chief of staff before joining the Obama administration’s Office of Legislative Affairs, where she will remain until her retirement.
Terrell knew Biden before beginning work for him. She was Beau Biden’s childhood friend, and she rode her bike to the Bidens’ home in Delaware. The connection enabled her to grasp the Biden sensibility at an early age, allowing her to thrive on his campaign staff for years.
“He knows my folks and just being connected that way,” Terrell said of Biden in late 2022. “You know where the person came from and I think that helps.”
“It brings a warmth to the work and I feel very, very lucky about that.”
Reaction to Louisa Terrell’s exit
After learning about Louisa Terrell’s retirement from the White House, President Joe Biden sent a tribute in her honor.
“As a US Senator for 36 years, I have developed a deep respect and reverence for the United States Congress and its vital institutional role in our democracy,” the statement reads. “When I was elected President, I knew that no one understood that better – or would be a better partner to my decades-long friends and former colleagues – than Louisa Terrell.”
“That’s because, for years – as a Senator, as Vice President, as President, and every moment in between – I have relied on Louisa for her wise counsel and her skill. I have relied upon her to reflect my values. And I have relied upon her to deliver for the American people. Every step of the way, that’s exactly what she has done.”
Biden’s adviser, Steve Richetti, was among the top administration officials who praised Terrell, saying:
“She was indispensable. She was at the center of everything that we did. On legislative wins, nominations, confirmations, legislative strategy. Every part of what we have done in two and a half years that involved Congress, she has been at the heart of.”
Richetti, who has known Terrell for decades, believes she will leave “huge, huge shoes to fill,” but he believes she has earned the opportunity to spend more time with her family.
The White House chief of staff, Jeff Zients, first met Louisa Terrell while both were working in the Obama administration. He depicted Terrell as a crucial actor in the president’s cabinet selection and confirmation during the post-election transition phase. Terrell’s “superpower” is also her emotional intelligence, according to Zient.
“She is so good at identifying the human element in every interaction,” said Zients, describing the way she listens and emphasizes lawmakers’ perspective over negotiations and strategy sessions. “They say you should walk a mile in other people’s shoes. Louisa has done marathons in dozens if not hundreds of people’s shoes.”