White House musical chairs

White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Fifth Year Fatigue may be settling in at the White House. New — or semi-new — folks– John Podesta as counselor, Phil Schiliro to advise on health care, Jeff  Zients to replace Gene Sperling  as head of the National Economic Council, and newly arrived deputy communications director Katie Beirne Fallon to replace legislative director Miguel Rodriguez — are or will soon be taking their posts.

Cabinet Secretary Danielle Gray is also said to be looking to move on.

White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler had announced her departure a while back, but after speaking with President Obama, she decided to stay until spring. We’re hearing the White House is having trouble getting someone to replace Ruemmler. She’s been with Obama since the beginning of the presidency and has become a trusted member of the top team, so it’s not going to be easy. And Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that the National Security Agency’s sweeping up of Americans’ phone records was unconstitutional  might make things even harder.

The search apparently is on for someone who’s a legal powerhouse with some substantial private practice  and  political or legislative experience. Sounds like they want some wise man, or woman, along the lines of the late  former Carter and Clinton White House counsel Lloyd Cutler, or maybe former House member, appeals court judge and Clinton White House counsel Abner Mikva.

Meanwhile, Jeanne Lambrew, a leading player in the White House Obamacare rollout fiasco, is also looking to leave. We’re told she’s been planning to do so for quite a while. But some folks are saying she should stay on, or else it will look like she’s leaving because of the Obamacare mess.

Uh, well. . . .

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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Al Kamen · December 17, 2013