McConnell's top aide leaving the Hill
By Paul Kane
Kyle Simmons, the behind-the-scenes architect of the Senate GOP's strategy of resistance against President Obama, is leaving his job as chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Simmons, 45, who will serve until a planned President's Day recess, is leaving the McConnell fold after a 14-year run, including 11 years as his top aide. After back-to-back elections saw the Republicans lose 15 seats over the previous three years, McConnell found a comfortable groove in the past several months as the quiet but confident leader of the Republican blockade of Obama's most critical domestic agenda item, the health-care reform legislation, uniting all 40 GOP senators in opposition to the bill.
That strategy -- which included delaying a final vote on the Senate's version until Christmas Eve -- paid off when Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.) scored an upset win in the special election to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), depriving the Democrats of the 60 votes they need to pass health care. The legislation is currently stalled and, in the next week or so, Senate officials will unbolt a desk from the Democratic side of the aisle and move it over to the Republican side for the first time since just after the 2004 elections. Many independent political handicappers now predict Republicans will pick up a chunk of seats in the November mid-term elections.
"Working alongside my Senate colleagues has been the greatest experience of my professional life. But now is the right time in my career and family life to say goodbye," Simmons said in a statement.
Simmons, who does not yet have his private-sector employment lined up, will be replaced by long-time Republican aide Sharon Soderstrom, an expert in parliamentary tactics who has advised the last three GOP leaders.
Simmons, an easy-going native of Kentucky with a deep passion for Kentucky Wildcats basketball, is considered both a legislative and political expert. In addition to running McConnell's operation leader since 2007 and the previous four years as GOP whip, the No. 2 leadership position, Simmons oversaw the senator's close 2008 re-election and served on the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign. He also served as the top strategist for the razor-thin victory of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) in 1998, when McConnell served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"Kyle has been at my right hand through critical races in Kentucky and for the Senate leadership. He has the rare combination of political acumen and personal grace that has made him an invaluable advisor to me and the entire Republican conference," McConnell said in a statement.
Web Politics Editor
February 2, 2010; 1:29 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency
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