The man behind the man behind the man: Pence chief Josh Pitcock

Vice President-elect Mike Pence this week named longtime aide Josh Pitcock to serve as chief of staff. The mild-mannered Pitcock is one of Pence’s longest-serving staffers, dating to the vice-president-elect’s time in the US House before eventually rising to the role of chief of staff for the then-congressman.

After Pence’s election as governor of Indiana in 2012, Pitcock remained on special detail in Washington to serve as the state’s federal lobbyist. During the presidential campaign and transition, Pence again leveraged Pitcock to serve as a senior policy advisor.

With the incoming president’s relative lack of Beltway experience, veteran Washington hands believe that Pence, as a skilled legislator, will play an increasingly pivotal role in the new administration as a liaison between sometimes-fractious congressional Republicans and the White House. That added responsibility for Pence fostered the expectation, both within and without the transition, that Pitcock would assume the top post, given his closeness to the vice-president elect and his experience in navigating the pitfalls of the Capitol Hill.

Pitcock is a graduate of DePauw University in Indiana and earned his law degree from Wake Forest University.

Trump's Obamacare squad

Georgia Congressman Tom Price, the author of one of the most thorough Republican proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the transition announced Tuesday morning.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, will assume his new role already with a blueprint to supplant the controversial health care law: his own “Empowering Patients First Act,” which provides for age-based tax credits, sets a limit on tax exclusion of employer-sponsored coverage, and creates individual and small employer membership association and association health plans to allow for interstate insurance markets.

As Vox writes, Price is “the HHS secretary you’d pick if you were serious about dismantling” the ACA.

At the same time, the transition announced that Trump had chosen Seema Verma, a health policy consultant who designed Indiana’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion program under President-elect Mike Pence, to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Through her firm SVC Inc., Verma has advised a slate of other GOP governors in conservative workarounds to Medicaid expansion, including employment requirements and health savings accounts.

We’ve examined previously in this space the procedural and political hurdles to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but Tuesday’s nominations mark the clearest indication yet of the president-elect’s enduring commitment to undo his predecessor’s signal achievement.

With new White House MOU, Pence restarts transition work

The White House said late Tuesday it had received a memorandum of understanding from President-elect Donald Trump, a legally required process that had been delayed amid a reorganization of Trump transition aides.

The MOU, allowing for a formal communications channel between the current and incoming administrations, names Vice President-elect Mike Pence as head of the transition process.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of the president-elect’s most significant early endorsers, had previously signed a parallel document designating himself as the transition’s principal before he and several of his senior aides were replaced this week by Pence. The shuffling of aides temporarily paused communication between the White House and Trump’s aides.

Now, Trump’s transition aides–the so-called “landing teams”–will begin liaising as soon as Friday with current federal agency employees.

Pence, newly installed atop the transition effort, has begun to purge lobbyists from the landing teams tasked with constructing and staffing the new Trump administration, according to a report Wednesday by Fox News.