Director, Congressional Programs

Congressional & Executive Branch Relations

Even after more than 20 years of “working the Hill” for Heritage, Danielle Doane greets each day with enthusiasm. “Every day is a new opportunity to impact policy, to make a difference,” she says.

Helping Two Branches of Government Find True North

Washington, D.C., is a city known for “churn.” It’s filled with young people on the make, happy to switch jobs every 12 months or even sooner. Those who’ve “made their bones” on Capitol Hill then job-hop to ever-more-lucrative posts in the district’s countless lobbying firms, trade associations or political consultancies.

But not Danielle Doane. The one-time chief of staff to former Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., Doane has stuck at Heritage for more than 20 years, serving in virtually every department from the Asian Studies Center to our old domestic policy shop. Today, she serves as director of congressional programs in our newest department: Congressional and Executive Branch Relations.

When asked why she never jumped on Washington’s job-swapping merry-go-round, Doane says simply, “Because Heritage is the best at what we do. Why wouldn’t I want to keep working for the best?”

Besides, she says, her job never gets old because the people and the issues she deals with are constantly changing. “Hill staff changes. Leadership changes,” she notes. “Heritage has new ideas to sell and new challenges from the Left to beat back. And always, there are new people on Capitol Hill to train.”

Our Congressional Fellows, class of ’18, gather for a graduation photo on the steps of the Library of Congress.

Focus on Capitol Hill Staff…

Seeing that Hill staff get the training they need is a large part of Doane’s job. She helps manage an expanding tier of education programs designed to build the bench of the conservative movement and help conservative congressional staff be more effective. Here’s what we offered in 2018.

Now in its 17th year, HCF—the Heritage Congressional Fellows Program—is a year-long, 24-installment lecture and discussion series for junior congressional staffers. Co-sponsored by our Simon Center for Politics and Principles, the program gives participants a firm grounding in First Principles. Eighty-one Hill staffers completed HCF in 2018, the largest graduating class yet.

Once junior Hill staff have completed HCF, they are eligible for Take that Hill: Leadership Skills for Congressional Staff. This is a six-part leadership development program. In 2018, only its second year on offer, Take that Hill graduated 20 young leaders from 19 different members’ offices.

Now in its third year, the Feulner-Weyrich Fellows Program attracted the participation of 14 of the most influential senior conservative staffers on the Hill. A master class for those who already know their way around the Capitol, the 21-session syllabus is geared to helping them hone their operational, legislative, and strategic skill sets. For example, in one session—a weekend long retreat to Maryland’s Eastern Shore—participants engaged in an intense, simulated legislative negotiation.

Doane oversaw the launch of a fourth program in 2018: the Civil Society Fellowship. Aimed at mid-level Hill staffers, this lecture and discussion series addresses public policy issues pertaining to life, marriage, and religious freedom. The inaugural class of 14 fellows concluded the program with a spirited debate on gender identity and federal law.

Congressional and Executive Branch Relations co-sponsors a fifth program with our Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy. The six-month long George C. Marshall Fellowship prepares young professionals—both on the Hill and off—to fill future leadership roles in national security and foreign policy. Davis scholars with decades of military leadership experience lead the sessions. In 2018, the program attracted 22 participants wishing to take a deep dive into national security policy and study the art of developing a grand strategy.

Highlights included a Yalta simulation exercise at Virginia Military Institute and a speech from former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend at November’s graduation dinner. This year’s graduates are now prepared to follow in the footsteps of earlier Marshall Program grads who have gone on to serve in senior positions in Congress, the Trump administration, and the private sector.

Scenes from the Conservative Members Conference

Executive Vice President Kim Holmes and Vice President Thomas Binion

More than 40 members of Congress and senior White House staff

Left to right: Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.

…And Elected Officials

In January, the Congressional and Executive Branch Relations team, led by Vice President Thomas Binion, hosted our annual Conservative Members Conference—a workshop retreat popular among members of the Republican Study Committee (the largest conservative caucus within the congressional GOP), the House Freedom Caucus, and senior White House staff.

During the two-day conference, 39 House members, joined by several administration officials, huddled to hammer out a policy agenda and work on a strategy for pushing it forward. As they considered how best to deal with thorny issues such as the budget, health care, welfare reform, and immigration, they were able to draw on the expertise of attentive Heritage scholars. They also heard inspirational speeches by Heritage President Kay Coles James and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

Ten months later, less than a week after the November elections, Binion’s team hosted its bi-annual New Member Orientation for newly elected members of Congress.

The session opened with words of wisdom from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and closed with a spirited speech by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. In between were presentations on 2019 policy priorities and First Principles.

A lot of how-to advice was also offered—practical tips on everything from how to organize offices in D.C. and back home, to how to staff them. It was a full day of orientation, and each new member left with two helpful “souvenirs”—a binder full of Heritage policy recommendations, and another containing the résumés of more than 300 qualified conservatives available to help staff all those new Hill offices.

Executive Branch Relations Advisor Mike Howell closed out the year by putting together a congressional oversight training workshop for more than 70 senior administration officials. Featured speakers included former House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Heritage Distinguished Visiting Fellow Rick Dearborn.  

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