Obama to lean on Washington vet as White House counsel
WASHINGTON — President Obama is turning to Neil Eggleston, a veteran of the Whitewater and Iran-Contra confrontations between Capitol Hill and the White House, to help guide his administration through what could be stormy years ahead with Congress.
Obama on Monday named Eggleston, a Washington lawyer who specializes in representing high-profile public figures in government investigations, as the next White House counsel. He replaces Kathryn Ruemmler, who has been seeking to vacate the White House hot seat for months.
If Republicans take control of the Senate and keep the House in November elections, Eggleston's past experiences as associate White House counsel for President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater congressional hearings and deputy chief counsel of the House Iran-Contra Committee could put him on solid ground.
Another key task for the White House lawyer is drawing up a list of potential nominees to fill the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
There is speculation that Ginsburg, who is 81, will retire next year.
Eggleston will likely face pressure from Latinos, a key constituency for Obama, to change federal rules to make deportations less frequent. Immigration advocates say Obama has not done enough to focus deportations solely on immigrants convicted of serious crimes.
When Ruemmler became White House counsel three years ago, just the third woman to hold that job, she was 40 and relatively unknown despite having served as a top prosecutor in the Justice Department.
She dealt head-on with long-standing criticism of the administration's poor record in getting judges confirmed to the federal bench by pushing for a change to Senate rules that allowed confirmation of judges and most other appointees with a simple majority instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes.