Majority Whip Gets New Chief of Staff in the New Year
In the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the year-end scramble will involve a personnel transition in the very senior ranks.
Lynnel Ruckert, who has served as the Louisiana Republican’s chief of staff since he won a special election to the House in 2008, is leaving Capitol Hill after 14 years total as a GOP aide.
She’ll be handing the reigns over to Brett Horton, Scalise’s current floor director. “He’s very steady in his approach, very respected, somebody you can trust,” Scalise said of Horton in an interview with Roll Call Thursday. “Especially in the whip operation, you’re in constant contact with the members, and their chiefs of staff, so having a chief who’s approachable and reaches out to other chiefs so people know what’s going, know what they’re looking for in the policy that comes to the House floor, is incredibly important.
“[Horton’s] already has got those skills and trust level and I think he’s gonna step in and do a great job,” he added.
Scalise also praised Ruckert, whom he said helped him achieve major legislative and professional milestones since he came to Capitol Hill with her ever-present “drive and commitment.”
“The chief role around here is, ‘you’re a generalist,'” Ruckert said later on Thursday of Horton, who sat beside her on a couch patterned with the New Orleans’ fleur-de-lis. “I think his background in policy and the floor shop will definitely be well-suited.”
“I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half trying to figure out where we’re gonna have 218 and what it’s gonna take to get there,” Horton told Roll Call as Ruckert nodded in agreement. “I know what the floor team is going to be dealing with, and I’ve seen kind of the way the whole office really comes together to try to figure out what’s the creative solution, the conservative solution, that’s going to make our team really function as a team.”
Ruckert and Horton represent two generations on Team Scalise.
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Ruckert is a Capitol Hill veteran who got her start working for the Energy and Commerce Committee and then two of Scalise’s House GOP predecessors who moved into other political offices: Bobby Jindal became governor and David Vitter became a senator. She actually met her husband, Kyle Ruckert, when they were both aides in Vitter’s congressional office.
Vitter’s decision not to run for re-election in the Senate after losing the gubernatorial race was what prompted both Ruckerts to reevaluate their careers. Lynnel Ruckert says she isn’t ready to announce her plans yet, but she might end up back in Louisiana and definitely will no longer be working on the Hill.
Meanwhile, Horton, who turns 32 in January, came to Washington, D.C., right out of law school in 2010 and very quickly joined Scalise’s staff. He first worked in the personal office, and then when Scalise won the chairmanship of the Republican Study Committee, he became the group’s policy director.
But they both have much in common, even apart from the fact that they work for the same lawmaker.
Ruckert is credited for helping Scalise win a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, a coup she at the time thought was going to be her biggest challenge working for him while Horton was instrumental in Scalise’s campaign to lead the RSC.
They communicate closely with other members of the senior staff each morning, so Ruckert joked the two already “share the same brain.”
And they both come from Louisiana and share a passion for spreading New Orleans culture. The whip’s office has become famous for its “lagniappes,” local parlance for “a little something extra,” such as cookie cakes when members get their bills passed and pralines when someone has good news.
“That’s just an outward symbol of the Scalise way,” said Ruckert. “The Scalise way is to think about others first. It’s an incremental place here in Washington, so celebrate when you have a win. Work hard, build coalitions and take the time to enjoy success.”
Ruckert said Horton’s first duty will be carrying on the tradition of doling out those “extra touches.”
“I readily accept that responsibility,” Horton replied.
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