Biden confirms Zients to replace Klain as chief of staff
President Biden on Friday confirmed that Ron Klain will step down as chief of staff and be replaced by Jeff Zients, with a transition event to be held next week.
Biden made official what had been reported last week, thanking Klain for his service and crediting him with helping to achieve major accomplishments during the first two years of the Biden administration.
“Next week, the White House will host an official transition event to thank Ron for his tireless work and officially welcome Jeff back to the White House in this role,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden pointed to progress fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, making economic gains, passing legislation to address climate change, confirming the first Black woman to the Supreme Court and appointing nearly 100 federal judges as major milestones during Klain’s time as chief of staff.
Biden also noted Klain is well-liked by White House staff members, praising his approach to the job.
“When I was elected President, I knew that I wanted Ron to lead the White House staff. He was uniquely qualified given his prior public service,” Biden said. “He knows how government works, how politics works, how Congress and the White House works. 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.”
Replacing Klain will be Zients, who worked with Biden during the Obama administration as the head of the Office of Management and Budget and was the man tasked with fixing issues with healthcare.gov.
More recently, Zients led Biden’s coronavirus response team for the first year Biden was president.
“When I ran for office, I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does. A big task ahead is now implementing the laws we’ve gotten passed efficiently and fairly,” Biden said. “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.”
Klain will depart after roughly two years as chief of staff, a long tenure in any White House. He has worked alongside Biden for decades and held various jobs on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, including as chief of staff to Biden when he was vice president.
Zients has been hailed as an expert manager who is able to solve complex problems, and White House allies believe he will be an asset as attention shifts to implementing laws passed during Biden’s first two years.
Some have noted he lacks the political experience of Klain, indicating more of the burden may be shifted to other top White House aides like Anita Dunn and Jen O’Malley Dillon as Biden prepares to balance governing with a likely 2024 reelection campaign.
Progressives, who built a strong relationship with Klain, may also be wary of Zients given his extensive background in the corporate world.
White House staff had avoided publicly confirming the news of Klain’s coming departure since it was first reported, but on Friday multiple officials offered their appreciation to Klain for his time in the building.
“As I said earlier this week, @WHCOS has been an incredible leader and boss,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted. “And I will always be a Klainiac. I’m grateful for everything Ron has done — for the White House and for America. Congratulations and thank you for your service to our country.”
“There were tough days, but Ron’s vision was always clear: Securing legislative wins and effective implementation that put our economy on stronger, sustainable, more resilient path. A great leader. A true American hero,” Heather Boushey, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, tweeted.
Updated at 9:50 a.m.
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