President Confirms Jeff Zients Will Succeed Klain As Chief of Staff
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Friday morning that Jeff Zients, the administration’s former COVID-19 response coordinator, will assume the role of White House chief of staff next month.
Ron Klain, who currently serves as the president’s chief of staff, is expected to leave the White House after Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7.
Though there’s no word on what Klain intends to do next, he has reportedly been telling close allies that he intended to transition away from the White House since achieving some of the administration’s key legislative goals last year.
In a lengthy statement released by the White House this morning, Biden called Klain “a once-in-a-generation talent with a fierce and brilliant intellect.”
“Just as important, he has a really big heart,” the president said.
Biden has known and worked with Klain for nearly 40 years, and the president recalled that when he moved into the White House, he knew Klain was “uniquely qualified” to lead the White House staff.
“He knows how government works, how politics works, how Congress and the White House work,” Biden said. “He is as tough, smart, determined and persistent as anyone I have ever met. He assembled the most diverse and the most talented White House team in history and leaned on them to solve impossible challenges.
“Working together, we have made incredible progress fighting COVID, reviving our economy, rebuilding our infrastructure and winning the confirmation of almost 100 federal judges, including the first Black woman on the United States Supreme Court,” the president continued.
“We have taken big steps to tackle climate change, advance civil rights and address student debt. We’ve been reasserting America’s place in the world, and maybe most important of all — restoring faith in our democracy.
“This progress will be the legacy of this White House team, working under Ron’s leadership. While we have accomplished an extraordinary amount, the real mark of Ron’s success is that he is beloved by the team he leads here at the White House. They’re going to miss him just as much as I will,” Biden said.
Zients served as a co-chairman of the Biden transition team before becoming the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, a position he held until April 2022.
After he left that post (he was replaced by Dr. Ashish Jha), Klain tapped him to lead a pre-election talent search ahead of anticipated departures following the midterms.
Ironically, Klain is the first high-profile departure from the White House since the November election, and Zients, now, the administration’s highest profile hire.
In addition to the experience mentioned above, Zients comes to his new post having served as director of the National Economic Council, and the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration.
Speaking of his incoming chief of staff on Friday, Biden said, “I’ve seen Jeff Zients tackle some of the toughest issues in government.
“When I was vice president, I first got to know him at the beginning of the Obama-Biden administration, working closely on [the] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act implementation as Jeff was a leader at the Office of Management and Budget,” the president said.
“He was later handed the daunting and complicated task of fixing healthcare.gov, which he did successfully, helping get millions of Americans quality, affordable health insurance,” the president continued.
“He led the National Economic Council, and shares my focus on strengthening our economy to work for everyone. He helped manage our administration’s transition into office under incredibly trying circumstances. Thanks to Jeff, we had a historically diverse team in place on day one ready to go to work. And he led our COVID response, a massive logistical undertaking of historic proportions.”
Biden said the big task ahead of Zients as he takes his new post will be implementing the sweeping legislation the administration passed in the last Congress.
“I’m confident that Jeff will continue Ron’s example of smart, steady leadership, as we continue to work hard every day for the people we were sent here to serve,” Biden said.
An official transition event is scheduled to be held at the White House next week.