Who is the woman sitting behind Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorusch during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee? That’s Mary Elizabeth Taylor, who now works for the Donald Trump Administration in the White House legislative affairs unit. Taylor has become a social media star, grabbing the spotlight from the judge.
Taylor sat behind Gorsuch on Monday, March 20 and has been seen behind him during the second and third days of his confirmation hearings. She’s been more visible than Gorsuch’s wife Louise Gorsuch and it’s not clear why she has been given such a prominent seat. Although she worked on Gorsuch’s nomination team when he was meeting Senators before the hearings, she was not a lead staffer.
Gorsuch was nominated by Trump to fill the seat on the Supreme court left vacant after Justice Antonin Scalia‘s death in 2016.
Taylor’s career in Washington began while she was in college. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, she began interning in the Senate in July 2006. She worked for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and was an assistant in the Senate Republican Cloakroom, where politicians often make deals outside official meetings.
Here’s what you need to know about Taylor.
1. She Currently Works for the White House Legislative Affairs Unit
Politico reports that Taylor currently works in the White House legislative affairs unit, focusing on work with the Senate. The unit acts as a liaison between the President and the legislative houses and tries to push the President’s agenda through Congress.
The White House officially announced on March 22 that Taylor’s job title is Deputy Director of Nominations.
According to Dow Jones, Taylor works under Amy Swonger, a longtime lobbyist who also worked for Mitch McConnell in the past. In 2015, Swonger joined Heather Podesta & Partners. Swonger will have to terminate her lobbying registration and can’t hold meetings with former clients at the White House until 2018, per Trump’s executive order on ethics.
The Washington Post reported that Taylor also worked closely with Makan Delrahim, the lead staffer on Gorsuch’s nomination team. The White House picked former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte to help Gorsuch navigate through the Senate and meet Senators.
In 2013, The Atlantic reported that the Legislative Affairs office has a role that often changes from president to president. During his second term, President Barack Obama described his office as “responsible for advancing the president’s legislative agenda on Capitol Hill. “Every day, the Legislative Affairs team is on the front lines, working with senators, representatives, and their staffs to promote the president’s priorities,” the Obama White House said of its unit.
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2. She Is a Former Aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Before joining the White House, Taylor was an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell, the current Majority Leader in the Senate. According to the Washington Post, Taylor’s job in McConnell’s office was to help him develop personal relationships with other Republican senators. She was also an assistant in the Senate cloakroom from May 2011 to December 2014.
In Congress, the “cloakrooms” are special rooms where members of the House and Senate have conversations that aren’t considered formal meetings. These are open to only elected members of Congress and their staffers. It’s important for behind-the-scenes deal making. As the New York Times reported in 2010, McConnell fells “more at home plotting tactics in the cloakroom” than working in committees or on the campaign trail.
While on The View recently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer referenced the cloakroom as a place where Republicans can quietly express their opinions. “When you talk to Republicans quietly — in the cloakroom or in the gym, they are having real problems with [Trump],” Schumer said.
3. She Interned for Koch & the Washington Nationals in College
According to her LinkedIn page, Taylor was an intern for Koch Industries in the summer of 2010, while she was still in college. Koch is based in Wichita, Kansas and is a politically powerful manufacturing company, thanks to the Koch brothers‘ contributions to Republican candidates. The company does have an office in Washington, D.C.
She also interned in the Washington Nationals marketing department while in college.
She started her career in Washington as a Senate Floor intern in July 2006. She continued as an intern until August 2009. Taylor was also a Public Policy Leadership Fellow at the Fund for American Studies (TFAS) in 2012. The Fund for American Study’s mission is to develop “leaders for a free society.” It was established in 1967 by former New Jersey Governor Charles Edison, the son of Thomas Edison.
Roger Ream, the current TFAS president, celebrated Taylor’s presence at the hearing on Twitter. “Great to see @TFASorg alumna Mary Elizabeth Taylor sitting behind Judge Gorsuch at hearing. #changingtheworld,” he wrote.
4. She Has a Political Science Degree From Bryn Mawr College
Taylor’s LinkedIn page notes that she has a degree in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College, a woman’s college in Pennsylvania. She graduated in 2011 and also studied Spanish. While there, she was also a peer career adviser from 2009 to 2011.
The college was founded in 1885 and was the first women’s college to offer Ph.D. graduate education.
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5. The Man Sitting Next to Her is Michael McGinley
The man seen sitting next to Taylor at Gorsuch’s hearings during the second day was Michael McGinley. According to his LinkedIn page, he is currently an associate counsel to President Donald Trump. He’s also a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
McGinley is a Harvard Law School graduate, who also earned a B.A. at the University of Notre Dame. He was previously a law clerk for Gorsuch and was also a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
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