Administrative staff, Budget Committee, Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, Clinton, Hillary Rodham, Clinton, William J., Crime Bill (1994), Humor, Majority Leader, Nunn, Samuel A., Persian Gulf War, Press relations, Sarbanes, Paul, Tax, U.S. Senate culture
John L. Hilley was born on October 22, 1947, to Dorothy and William Hilley in Tampa, Florida. His father was in the Air Force, so his family moved frequently. In eleventh grade he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and went on to Princeton University. He taught for a few years, then returned to Princeton to earn a Ph.D. in economics. He taught at Lehigh University, receiving tenure, then moved to Washington, D.C. He began work at the Congressional Budget Office and then transitioned to the Senate Budget Committee, becoming staff director under Senator Sasser. In January of 1991, he became Senator Mitchell’s chief of staff and continued in that role until Mitchell’s retirement in 1995. He subsequently served briefly as chief counsel to Senator Daschle in the Majority Leader’s Office. From 1996 to 1998, he worked as senior advisor and head of legislative affairs for President Clinton. He has been the executive vice president of the National Association of Securities Dealers and the chairman and CEO of NASDAQ International.
Interview includes discussion of: Hilley’s education; work at the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate Budget Committee; working for Senator Sasser; the role of the budget in legislation; Mitchell’s mental abilities; the majority leadership race; Mitchell’s work ethic and dedication to Maine; the different elements of the majority leader’s work; the activities of the Maine staff, the floor staff, the whip operation, the Senate administrative staff, and the Senate parliamentarian; Mitchell’s and Dole’s agreement to no surprises; the difference between Mitchell and Byrd as leader; the transition from Martha Pope to Hilley as chief of staff and what the chief of staff role entailed; the majority leader’s working with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; key senators with whom Mitchell built relationships; Mitchell and Senator Sarbanes sharing cucumber sandwiches; Mitchell’s even-keeled temperament; the staff’s access to Mitchell; staff meetings; when Hilley used Mitchell’s hideaway to take naps after an illness; a maneuver they used to defeat a capital gains tax cut and Senator Bentsen’s loyalty to Mitchell; the first Iraq War; the change in the majority leader’s role when President Clinton came into office; the Clinton administration’s stimulus bill, the subsequent deficit reduction package and how it brought out the partisan divide in the Senate; the Clinton administration’s initial blunders; Hillary Clinton’s health care package; the 1994 crime bill; Mitchell’s relationship with President Clinton and communication with the White House; Mitchell’s office’s relationship with the House; Mitchell’s style of running meetings; Mitchell’s dealings with the press; the budget and the meetings at Andrews Air Force Base; Senator Byrd’s giving John Sununu a dressing down at Andrews Air Force Base; Mitchell’s retirement; Senator Daschle as Mitchell’s successor; Mitchell’s humor; Hilley’s wish that Mitchell had been president; Senator Dole’s humor; the present day lack of moderates in both parties; Harry Reid’s job today and the Obama administration’s endeavors; how the question of who holds the presidency is inextricably linked to what came before.
This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.