WASHINGTON — Ron Klain is stepping down as White House chief of staff and Jeff Zients will take over the role, President Joe Biden confirmed Friday, marking the most significant shakeup of his staff since he took office.
Biden credited Klain, who has been Biden’s chief of staff since the beginning, with helping drive some of the greatest successes of his presidency, calling him “a once-in-a-lifetime talent with a fierce and brilliant intellect” in a statement. .
Biden said Zients, who served as White House COVID-19 response coordinator, will be his new chief of staff. Zients, a management consultant and veteran of President Barack Obama’s administration, faces enormous challenges posed by a new Republican-led House of Representatives as Biden is widely expected to launch a re-election campaign soon.
Moreover: Biden to appoint Jeff Zients, who has led the COVID response, as White House chief of staff
Biden’s statement confirmed previous reports of Klain’s exit and Zients’ appointment. While Biden did not specify a time for the turnover, he said the White House would host a transition event next week to welcome Zients back to office.
Klain is expected to stay at least until Biden’s State of the Union address, set for Feb. 7
“When I ran for office, I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does. A big job now is implementing the laws we pushed through efficiently and fairly,” he said Biden.
Since coordinating the administration’s response to COVID-19, Zients has returned to the White House in a low-profile position working on personnel issues for the remainder of Biden’s first term.
Zients has been part of Biden’s inner circle for years.
When Biden was vice president, Zients worked with him as director of the National Economic Council and later served on the board of the Biden Cancer Initiative and as an adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.
Prior to a series of federal appointments, Zients was CEO of The Advisory Board Co. and chairman of the Corporate Executive Board. He and media titan David Bradley took the two companies public, which made both multi-millionaires.
Biden said he first met Zients during the Obama presidency, when Zients served as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and was tasked with fixing healthcare.gov, the Affordable Care Act website that was plagued by problems. Biden said he has seen Zients “deal with some of the toughest issues in government.”
“I’m confident Jeff will continue Ron’s example of consistent, intelligent leadership as we continue to work hard every day for the people we’ve been sent here to serve,” Biden said.
Moreover: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain to resign after State of the Union: reports
Biden entered the new year with momentum after Democrats exceeded expectations in the midterm elections, but is now under increased scrutiny after a cache of classified documents was found in the president’s former office at a think tank in Washington and at his home in Wilmington.
Biden’s legislative agenda in a divided Congress is bleak. Just weeks into the new Congress, the White House is facing resistance from House Republicans who are calling for unspecified spending cuts to raise the debt ceiling. Failure to raise the debt limit could lead to the nation’s first default.
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Contributor: Michael Collins
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Biden: Jeff Zients to Replace Ron Klain as White House Chief of Staff