Serena Hoy was the guiding legal voice behind some of the most controversial issues facing the Senate during the past year. As the chief counsel for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Yale Law School grad and former Rhodes scholar wrote a key legal analysis following President Obama’s recess appointments to consumer and labor boards in January. Many senators thought Obama had overreached his executive powers, as the Senate was still meeting every few days in pro forma sessions to avoid such appointments.

But Reid cited Hoy’s analysis in deciding not to oppose the recess appointments, agreeing with her conclusion that the pro forma tactic would make it harder for any president to make recess appointments and shift the balance of power to Congress. The New York Times mentioned her by name in a front-page article.

“It’s hard to think of a job that could be more interesting and rewarding,” Hoy said.

Hoy has also focused on immigration and the detention of suspected terrorists, and played an important role in the negotiations over repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy regarding gays and lesbians in the armed forces. She formed a powerful Hill duo when she wed James Reilly, chief of staff to Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), in a ceremony officiated by Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

And last year, with the debt-ceiling discussions reaching a critical point, Reid had Hoy analyze whether Obama could direct the U.S. Department of the Treasury to keep borrowing — even if Congress didn’t act. “I thought enough of [the potential for default] that I had my Rhodes scholar lawyer do me a memo on the 14th Amendment,” Reid told Politico.

Hoy, who attended the University of Arizona, devoted her Rhodes Scholarship to the study of the Middle East at Oxford University. Following law school, she went into private practice, including a stint at Miami’s Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. She joined Reid’s office in 2005 and worked her way up.

Hoy feels she has been rewarded for her loyalty to Reid. “I think Senator Reid is a great person to work for and values loyalty,” she said. “We have a good working relationship.” — Todd Ruger