Healthcare

Obama to name Dem operative Klain to oversee Ebola response

Getty Images
A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola has been flown to the National Institutes of Health.
 

President Obama is set to appoint top Democratic operative Ron Klain to oversee the government’s Ebola response.

Klain served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden and currently works in the private sector as president of Case Holdings and general counsel to Revolution LLC, an investment firm.

Klain will report directly to Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco and the national security adviser Susan Rice, according to a White House official.

{mosads}The Washington veteran will be tasked with ensuring “that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa,” the official said.

The official said Klain was chosen because of his “extensive federal government experience overseeing complex operations and good working relationships with leading members of Congress” as well as “strong management credentials.”

“Klain’s role is consistent with the view the President articulated in the Oval Office last night that Monaco, Rice and others have done outstanding work in confronting this challenge so far — but given their management of other national and homeland security priorities, additional bandwidth will further enhance the government’s Ebola response,” the official added.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the post was not envisioned as “an open-ended commitment” and would probably extend “something on the order of five or six months.” 

Obama signaled his openness to appointing an “Ebola czar” late Thursday after a two-hour meeting with top advisers. 

The president noted Thursday that the government officials who had previously been heading the Ebola response had other responsibilities, including the oncoming flu season and the ongoing fight against jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Leaving the door open to the move was a significant shift for the White House. Officials had previously rejected the idea amid mounting Republican calls for an official to handle Ebola full time. 

“It may make sense for us to have one person in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process to make sure we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s,” Obama told reporters Thursday. 

The administration is under pressure to prove its competence on disease control, after two Dallas healthcare workers were infected with Ebola this fall. 

Before this week, only six lawmakers had openly called for Obama to appoint a new point-person on Ebola.

Obama has canceled two days of campaign activity to address the crisis, as federal health officials raise the possibility of further Ebola cases to come.

“The President should immediately designate an experienced, proven leader to coordinate a national response involving local, state and federal agencies to contain Ebola in the United States, including considering temporary restrictions on travel from impacted West African nations,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Thursday.

But not all Democrats have been supportive of the idea. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said Thursday that ” the last thing we need right now is another layer of bureaucracy.”

“I do think we have an Ebola czar, and that’s the CDC,” DeGette said.

With management of the situation shifting to the White House, at least one key public health official appeared to be out of the loop on Obama’s decision. 

“I don’t know what exactly is meant by a czar,” Anthony Fauci, a leader with the National Institutes of Health and top administration spokesman on Ebola, said Friday. 

“We will certainly follow the lead of the president and follow the lead of Secretary Burwell. I take care of patients and I do my job, other people do their job.”

— Sarah Ferris contributed to this story. 

This story was updated at 2:20 p.m.

 

 

 
Tags Al Gore Barack Obama Ebola Joe Biden

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video