Clinton, William J., Dole, Robert J., Finance Committee, Health care, Majority Leader, Tax, U.S. Senate retirement
Sheila Burke was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She earned a B.S. in nursing at the University of San Francisco (class of 1973) and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. She started working for Senator Dole in May of 1977 to handle health issues on the Senate Finance Committee. A Democrat from California, she was hired due to her prior experience as a nurse with a hands-on understanding of patient care. She became deputy chief of staff in the leader’s office when Senator Dole became minority leader in 1985 and rose to chief of staff in 1986, remaining in that role for ten years until Dole’s retirement; she served a dual role as secretary of the Senate from January to June of 1995. From 1996-2000, she was executive dean and lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2000, she joined the Smithsonian Institution, where she rose to the position of deputy secretary and COO until 2007. At the time of this interview, she was a member of the faculty at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and lecturer at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. She is married and has three children.
Interview includes discussion of: George Mitchell and the Senate Finance Committee; Burke’s interest in working for Dole and how she came to be hired; first impressions of George Mitchell; the relationships between Senators Dole and Mitchell, Burke and Martha Pope; tax battles on the Finance Committee; Mitchell’s approach to legislating; Dole’s transition to leader; balancing Senate staff and leader staff interests; the easy working relationship between Dole and Mitchell as leaders and how that compared with Senator Byrd; health care reform and difficult issues surrounding the debate; the issues that Dole and Mitchell had in common and where they differed; Dole’s and Mitchell’s relationships to the White House; the role of partisanship and values; Burke’s experience of being criticized by conservatives in the Senate and the press; Mitchell’s expressing his sympathy for Burke on the occasion of Senator Packwood’s resignation; Burke’s reaction to Mitchell’s decision to retire; the Dole-Mitchell era in the Senate and how those two leaders maintained one another’s trust, elevated the discourse, and were evenly matched; where the Republican Party of 2009 will look for leadership; and Burke’s wish that Mitchell could return to work on the present attempt at health care reform.
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