Todd Metcalf

Floor Director for the House Majority Whip

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Why He Matters

It's Metcalf's job to stay one step ahead of the game. The newly-appointed floor director for House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) says the key to whipping a bill is knowing what everyone wants from it long before it reaches the floor. It's his job to find out.

A tax lawyer by trade, Metcalf has worked in Clyburn's office since January 2007. He was promoted to floor director after Jaime Harrison left the Hill for the Podesta Group. Early in the 111th Congress, Metcalf collected enough Democratic votes to give President Barack Obama's his first real legislative success in passing the $787 million stimulus package and the 2010 budget. But the aide will be tested repeatedly over the next two years as Congress attempts to pass a health-care overhaul, education reform and green energy policies.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Deputy floor director for Clyburn (2007 to 2009); Legislative Director for Rep. William Jefferson (2005 to 2007); Legislative Director for Max A. Sandlin (2003 to 2005)
  • Birthday: Sept. 23, 1970
  • Hometown: Sparta, Tenn.
  • Alma Mater: University of Tennessee, B.A. (political science, history and philosophy), 1993; Washington University, J.D., 1996
  • DC Office: H-329, The Capitol, 202-226-3210
  • Web site

Path to Power

Metcalf grew up in Sparta, Tenn., the only child of a public high-school teacher and a small-town entrepreneur. Though peripherally interested in politics, Metcalf described his childhood interest as an "avocation, not a vocation."

Metcalf went to the University of Tennessee, where he earned a B.A. in political science, and attended Washington University in St. Louis for his J.D. At the time, he wanted to work for a law firm in a big city in the South, so he spent both summers during law school working at firms in Houston. But Metcalf graduated from law school in 1996, during a presidential election year. "I got caught up in all of that and changed directions to be closer to the action," Metcalf said. He took the bar and then immediately began working on the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign, first in Tennessee and later around the country doing advance for both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

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The Issues

As floor director, Metcalf runs the whip operation for Clyburn. He works closely with a staff of two deputy floor directors, an assistant floor director and the director of member services to figure out what members of Congress like and don't like about a bill - and how much they like or don't like it.

Metcalf describes his job as the art of anticipation. He spends most of his time meeting with staffers to the Democratic House leaders and aides to committee chairs to discern what bills will be coming to the floor. He gauges a bill's "pressure points" with Democratic members and their staffs. Then, Metcalf circles back to his boss and others in the leadership to see where there is wiggle room. "We have an extraordinarily diverse caucus," Metcalf said. "The trick every time is to come up with a set of principles that everyone can agree with. And that's an interesting needle to thread every time."

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The Network

Metcalf's job makes it necessary for him to know as many top staffers as possible. He is regularly meeting with staff to figure out where representatives stand on upcoming bills and what needs to be changed in order to nab their votes.

He also works with staff directors for committees to discuss shaping bills before they get out of committee. In particular, Metcalf has been close to Janice Mays, staff director for the House Ways and Means Committee; Phil Barnett, the staff director for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; and Mark Zuckerman, the staff director for the House Education and Labor Committee.

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Campaign Contributions

Metcalf has given just over $3,000 since 1997, most of which went to the Democratic National Committee and EMILY's List.