Biden chooses a longtime Hill aide respected by Republicans as his new legislative affairs director

Jul 24, 2023, 9:10 AM

FILE - Shuwanza Goff, left, speaks with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., as they walk on C...

FILE - Shuwanza Goff, left, speaks with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., as they walk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 4, 2019. President Biden announced that Goff will serve as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is tapping Shuwanza Goff — a veteran congressional aide who also served as his main point of contact to the House at the start of the administration — as his new director of legislative affairs, making her the first Black woman to be the White House’s chief emissary to Capitol Hill.

Goff succeeds Louisa Terrell in the role, a position that is especially vital for a president who spent more than three decades in Congress and takes pride in his connections to lawmakers. Goff comes into the job with deep relationships not just with Democrats but with Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that were honed over more than a decade on Capitol Hill.

In a statement announcing the hire, Biden called Goff a “proven leader and trusted voice on both sides of the aisle” who played a key role in the biggest legislative accomplishments from the first two years of his presidency, including COVID-19 relief, a major climate, tax and health care package as well as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Before joining the Biden administration, Goff was a senior aide to Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., eventually becoming his floor director when Hoyer served in House Democratic leadership.

“Shuwanza’s close partnership with my decades-long friends in the House and Senate, and her expertise, instincts and deep respect for the United States Congress will continue to serve our Administration and the American people well,” Biden said.

Goff, 38, previously served as the White House’s deputy director of legislative affairs and House liaison, making her the main point of contact to House lawmakers. She left the administration earlier this year for the private sector before rejoining the White House.

Goff enters the role with no shortage of immediate challenges. In the coming weeks, Congress will have to determine how to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, ensure passage of a sweeping defense policy package and avert a government shutdown while juggling numerous confirmation fights in the Senate. Throughout those legislative battles, Goff will be tasked with ensuring Biden’s agenda remains intact while managing relations with a confrontational House Republican conference with vastly different priorities — a challenge that those who know her say she’s well-equipped to handle.

“Shuwanza is a friend and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle know that she is a policy professional with the experience and institutional knowledge of both the legislative and executive branch,” McCarthy told The Associated Press. “The White House is lucky to have her back.”

In her role as Hoyer’s floor director, Goff coordinated legislative activity in the House chamber which put her in constant contact with Democratic and GOP leaders, the Senate and the White House. She was the first Black woman to serve in that position.

Hoyer, who said he was “ecstatic” over Goff’s appointment, said her intelligence, credibility among both Democrats and Republicans as well as her straightforward demeanor will serve Biden well as the White House navigates the upcoming challenges.

“She’s just an easy person to work with and she’s smart as she can be,” Hoyer said. “She doesn’t show off smart, you know what I mean? She is smart, people know she’s smart but she also has empathy and patience to listen to others’ point of view.”

Goff holds degrees from the University of Tennessee and American University and is a Virginia native.

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