Reema Dodin is first Arab-American named in Joe Biden’s White House

Ms Dodin has Palestinian roots and is the first Arab-American to become deputy director of the White House office of legislative affairs.

Joe Biden’s pick for deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs is no stranger to the intricacies of US politics.

Over the past 15 years, Reema Dodin has walked the Brumidi-adorned corridors of the Capitol building, between the Senate floor and the office of her boss, Democratic Whip Richard Durbin.

Her role as deputy chief of staff to Mr Durbin enabled her to cut her teeth breaking legislative impasses, a skill she will call on regularly in her new White House post.

The Palestinian-American political veteran on Monday became the first Arab-American to get an appointment to the incoming Biden administration.

Born to Jordanian-Palestinian immigrants Bajis and Samia, Ms Dodin’s family is originally from Dura, near Hebron.

She graduated from the University of California in 2002 with a degree in economics and political science, and followed it with a law degree from the University of Illinois in 2006.

Ben Marter, former communications director for Senator Durbin, who shared an office for four years with Ms Dodin, describes her as a formidable, constructive force among Senate staffers and one who knows how to work under pressure.

"Nobody knows the Senate better than Reema, From procedures to pressure points, she knows the place. She even wrote a book on it," Mr Marter told The National on Tuesday.

Ms Dodin co-authored the book Inside Congress: A Guide for Navigating the Politics of the House and Senate Floors in 2017.

Aside from her expertise, Mr Marter pointed to a record of trust she has maintained with staffers on both sides of the aisle. “She is well known and respected as a force on the GOP side.”

Monica Popp, who is chief of staff for Republican Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, welcomed the appointment and described Ms Dodin as a professional respected by both parties.

For Arab-Americans, there was a lot to celebrate in Ms Dodin’s appointment.

Rebecca Abou Chedid, a Truman National Security Fellow, described the appointment as “historic for the Arab-American community”.

This is the first time that a member of the community fills a position dedicated for advancing the president's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill.

“What gives me real pride is her excellence and her integrity. In a city as divided as Washington, Reema is the rare public servant whose professionalism and decency is acknowledged by both sides of the aisle,” Ms Abou Chedid said.

Their first introduction was through a meeting set up by Ms Dodin’s former boss, Mr Durbin, who was helping the new staffer get to know members of her community after she moved to DC.

“Since that 'blind date' I have watched Reema go from a judiciary committee staffer to the floor director for the Senate Democrats without losing one ounce of the humility and love for public service that brought her here in the first place,” Ms Abou Chedid said.

Ziad Asali, a Palestinian-American and former director of the American Task Force on Palestine, saw Ms Dodin’s story as the embodiment of immigrant success in America.

"This is what we have been advising young Palestinian/Arab-Americans to do. Get involved. Learn the system and function within it," Mr Asali told The National. "The US allows and rewards meritocracy."

Maya Berry, the executive director of the Arab-American Institute, has known Ms Dodin for more than a decade and described her as someone who works well behind the scenes.

"She is hard working, crazy smart and rarely in the public eye. Policymakers on the Hill go to her to get things done," Ms Berry told The National.

“It is great for the American people that she will now be bringing those skill sets to the White House – and that it is an Arab-American woman who is leading this way is even better,” she said.

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