During the impeachment continuing this month, Ms. MacDonough spent hours on the Senate dais, advising Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, as he performed the unprecedented position of presiding over the trial of a former president. She and her advisers have offered steerage to Democratic senators as they turn into accustomed — a few of them for the primary time, others for the primary time in years — to overseeing Senate enterprise as the brand new majority celebration.
Ms. MacDonough has served as parliamentarian since 2012, when she was named to the job below a Democratic majority. A civil servant who has by no means straight labored for a politician, she labored as a legislative reference assistant within the Senate library after which as an editor of the Congressional Record earlier than being employed on the parliamentarian’s workplace in 1999.
“Referee, umpire, whatever word you want to use — they’re guided by the rules of the body as established by the body,” stated Bob Stevenson, a retired longtime Republican aide who labored for the Senate Budget Committee and former Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the bulk chief. “Just like a good referee in basketball or a good umpire in baseball would tell you the same thing: The best result is one where you remain anonymous.”
In her early days within the parliamentarian’s workplace, Ms. MacDonough honed her understanding of the fundamentals below Mr. Byrd himself, who would ceaselessly cease by to pepper her with procedural queries in what she would later describe within the 2018 speech as “a Socratic method on steroids” that supplied “a humbling and horrible way to start every day.”
“I didn’t like you when you first started; I didn’t think you would amount to much,” Ms. MacDonough recalled Mr. Byrd telling her. “But oh my, how you have surprised me.”
As Democrats transfer ahead with Mr. Biden’s financial plan with the funds reconciliation course of, it now falls to Ms. MacDonough to enact Mr. Byrd’s rule. It is a high-stakes job; in 2001, the parliamentarian on the time, Robert B. Dove, was unceremoniously ousted from his place after Republican leaders took situation together with his rulings.
The rule’s title lends itself to numerous bird-related puns generally used to explain the levels of the reconciliation course of. There is the “Byrd bath,” when senators can lodge objections to gadgets they consider violate the rule, and Ms. MacDonough scrubs and analyzes them to make a judgment. Anything that doesn’t survive the scrutiny is called a “Byrd dropping,” and is faraway from the laws earlier than it might advance.