The most powerful politicos (you don't yet know)

They may not be household names the way Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi are, these Washington women are wielding influence and authority behind the scenes.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell

mpw13 dc power sylvia mathews burwell
  • Title: Director, White House Office of Budget and Management

This West Virginia-raised Rhodes scholar earned her job as Obama's budget director partly thanks to her Clinton-era bona fides: She was a Robert Rubin protégé at the Treasury Department, went on to serve as deputy chief of staff at the White House, and then deputy budget director for Clinton's final two years. After more than a decade in philanthropy — most recently as president of the Walmart Foundation — she returned to government this spring to help another Democratic president navigate a budget standoff with Congressional Republicans. The combined crisis of a government shutdown and looming debt default will test her mettle.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated October 15 2013 11:43 AM ET
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