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House has new Ruler

Billy Pitts has been appointed by House Rules Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) as staff director of the committee.

“He has a thorough understanding of the legislative process and will help us better assess the procedural consequences of our actions,” Dreier said. “Billy will also be invaluable in working through the major jurisdictional changes required by homeland security.”

Pitts is no newcomer to the parliamentary procedures and budget process on the Hill. Working his way up from House page to chief legislative strategist for House Republicans under former leader Bob Michaels (Ill.), Pitts left the House after 25 years of service to work as a senior lobbyist for CapCities/ABC and the Walt Disney Co. He retired as an executive vice president of MP3.com. in 2001.

Oh, Danny Boy. Redland, Calif., native Danny O’Brien is the new chief of staff for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.). His duties will include oversight of the Washington and Delaware office in addition to Biden’s staff on the Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees.

“With his strong political background, Danny will help me achieve my goals of shaping the debate on both U.S. foreign policy and domestic issues and get things done for Delaware,” Biden said.

A University of the Redlands graduate, O’Brien has an extensive political background. He served as then-Sen. Robert Torricelli’s (N.J.) chief of staff and coordinated campaign manager from 2001 to 2002. He worked in the office of the public liaison in the Clinton White House and ran Al Gore’s 2000 campaign in Nevada. O’Brien spent the better part of the early ’90s working for the AFL-CIO, managing democracy programs in Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Prime new watchdog. The Joint Economic Committee adds Wendell Primus, 56, as minority staff director.

Primus has pledged that under his guidance, the committee “will be a watchdog

on the economy, examining key policy questions and their effects on economic growth, employment and income distribution.”

The Eldora, Iowa, native graduated from the University of Iowa in 1968 with a bachelor’s in economics and in 1975 with a Ph.D. in economics.

Primus previously worked as director of income security at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. During the Clinton administration he served as deputy assistant secretary for human services policy at the Department of Health and Human Services. He also boasts 15 years of experience on the Ways and Means Committee, where he filled a variety of positions from staff economist to chief economist, finally becoming staff director of the subcommittee on human resources.

Barton Boosts Staff. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has promoted several staff members recently.

At the top of the promotions is Fort Worth, Texas, native Samantha Jordan, 31, who is now Barton’s deputy chief of staff. In addition to her new duties, she will retain her previous duties as communications director and spokeswoman. Jordan is a 1994 graduate of Texas A&M University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s in history.

Ryan Long, 27, is Barton’s new legislative director. He has served three years in the Barton’s Congressional office. He previously served as legislative assistant. Long received his bachelor’s in political science and international studies from the University of North Carolina and is currently working toward his law degree from Catholic University of America.

Replacing Long as the legislative assistant is Aarti Shah. The 26-year-old Shah earned her bachelor’s in biology from the University of Houston and a master’s in health care administration from Texas Woman’s University. She is originally from Houston.

Amy Swanstrom, 24, moves up from staff assistant to deputy press and systems manager. Swanstrom, also from Houston, holds a bachelor’s in philosophy from Southern Methodist University.

Joby Fortson, 32, is the new legislative counsel for Barton. The Dallas native graduated from the University of Virginia, where he received his bachelor’s in government and foreign affairs. He also holds a law degree from the University of Texas.

New hires Josh Maxwell and Gabe Sassin, both 23, hail from Houston and are recent graduates of Texas A&M University. Maxwell, the new legislative correspondent, received his degree in agricultural development. Sassin, a political science major, becomes the new staff assistant.

Here Comes Texas. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas) is bringing two more Texans to his Hill office. Sugarland, Texas, native Elizabeth Bowden fills the executive assistant position vacated by Jaymie Richards. Richards returned to Texas after serving three years in Johnson’s office.

Bowden, 23, has worked with the National Federation of Independent Business as an administrative assistant and for Texas lawmaker Kevin Brady (R) as a staff assistant. She graduated from Baylor University with a degree in public relations.

Former Johnson intern Spencer Richie, 22, returns to “Johnson Country” as a legislative correspondent. After his December graduation from Texas Tech University with a degree in history, the Midland, Texas, native headed to the capital city to assume the task of managing the Congressman’s mail operation.

Staff Assistant Mark Williams is expanding his responsibilities in the Johnson office. In addition to his current duties, Williams, 24, is now the systems administrator. Williams is a 2001 graduate of the University of Texas in Austin. He holds a joint bachelor’s in English and Spanish.

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