Congressional Leaders React to White House Change

Posted October 1, 2010 at 2:20pm

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s departure Friday earned a muted response from Capitol Hill, with only a handful of Democratic leaders addressing the resignation.

President Barack Obama announced Emanuel’s move on Friday and said longtime adviser Peter Rouse would fill in as chief of staff on an interim basis.

Emanuel, who represented Illinois in the House until he was tapped by Obama for the top White House staff position, had an often difficult relationship with Capitol Hill, and Republicans in particular.

Although no Republican leaders made statements about the departure, a handful of Democratic leaders hailed Emanuel’s work in Washington, D.C.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer praised Emanuel’s commitment to public service in a statement and said he looks forward to working with Rouse.

“It was my pleasure to work with Rahm in the House leadership and during his time at the White House — and I’ve seen first-hand his love of public service, his tremendous work ethic, and his dedication to the Democratic Party. In his work for the Obama Administration, he was a key contributor to the major legislative accomplishments of the past 20 months,” the Maryland Democrat said.

“Rahm has served at one of the most difficult times in our nation’s recent memory, and his work has helped our country meet its great challenges. As he returns to Chicago, I wish him all the best. I also look forward to continuing to work with Pete Rouse. … I’m glad that the position is in his capable hands,” Hoyer added.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Emanuel “an invaluable, effective leader of President Obama’s team, helping to set the right course for this Administration. … I have enjoyed his friendship and support.”

The Nevada Democrat also praised the selection of Rouse.

“I have worked very closely with Pete Rouse for over 20 years during his time with [former Majority Leader Tom] Daschle [D-S.D.]. I have always admired and appreciated his low-key manner, dedication to public service, and common-sense approach to problem solving. I am confident that he will serve the President well as White House Chief of Staff,” Reid said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not release a statement Friday. But during her weekly press conference Thursday, Pelosi said she supports Emanuel’s bid to be mayor of Chicago, adding that he “enjoys a great reputation and … affection among his former colleagues in the House of Representatives.”

“He can do anything he sets his mind to, and we all wish him much success,” Pelosi said.

The California Democrat also had high praise for Rouse.

“The only issue that matters there is, does the chief of staff have the confidence of the President of the United States?” Pelosi said. “Pete Rouse certainly has the respect of those in Congress who know his service to our country well, and as the President’s choice we salute him and offer him cooperation.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, in a statement praised the selection of Rouse, who will become the first Asian American White House chief of staff.

“For the first time in White House history, the U.S. President’s chief of staff is Asian American, bringing even more color to a historically all-white house. Not only are we witnessing history-in-the-making, we are watching a Presidential commitment to diversity materialize in full, at both the Cabinet and collegial levels,” Honda said.

“This is groundbreaking considering that a mere sixty years ago, Japanese Americans were corralled into internment camps at the height of WWII. As Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, this is exactly the kind of change that I can, and will continue, to believe in.”

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.