Obama to huddle with Ebola czar

White House Ebola czar Ron Klain will spend Wednesday meeting with President Obama and senior administration officials responsible for coordinating the federal response to the deadly virus.

Klain’s first day will include not only an afternoon meeting with the president but additional sessions “with other senior White House staff, as well as with the White House teams that are coordinating and operationalizing the comprehensive strategy to enhance our domestic preparedness and contain the epidemic in West Africa,” a White House official said Tuesday.


Obama and Klain are also expected to give a brief statement to reporters following their meeting in the late afternoon.

Klain, whose official title is Ebola Response Coordinator, was appointed by Obama late last week amid criticism of the administration’s handling of the crisis. Two Dallas-area nurses were infected with Ebola while treating a Liberian man who was able to fly into the country after contracting the disease.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new beefed-up procedures to help protect doctors and nurses treating Ebola patients at U.S. hospitals. The Department of Homeland Security also announced that all passengers entering the country from the West African countries where the Ebola epidemic is concentrated would have to enter the country through one of five airports performing entry screenings to survey passengers for symptoms of the virus.

But those steps and Klain’s appointment have not quelled criticism, especially from the president’s Republican opponents. Many GOP lawmakers complained that Klain has no prior medical experience.

"Given the mounting failings in the Obama Administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, it is right that the President has sought to task a single individual to coordinate its response," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement. "But I have to ask why the President didn’t pick an individual with a noteworthy infectious disease or public health background?"

White House officials have dismissed that criticism, saying Klain had experience navigating the federal government and existing relationships on Capitol Hill that would be beneficial to the administration.

“Mr. Klain continues to be the person that the President believes is the expert implementer that’s needed to ensure that our whole-of-government approach to fighting Ebola is effectively applied in this situation to protect the American public,” press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

Klain's appointment comes amid speculation he is hoping to parlay the job into a more prominent role in the administration. Klain is thought to be angling for a position as either the president’s chief of staff, if Denis McDonough decided to depart after the midterm elections, or counselor. John Pedesta, who currently serves in that chief advisory role, has previously said he wants to leave by the end of the year.

The White House said Tuesday the Ebola response was Klain’s “number-one priority.”

“People here at the White House are very focused on the jobs that they have in front of them, and I’m confident that that includes Mr. Klain, Mr. McDonough, and Mr. Podesta,” Earnest said. 

In his current position, Klain will report to the president’s homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and national securityadviser Susan Rice.

A White House official said that management structure would "ensure an aggressive, effective, and synchronized response across government to enhance domestic preparedness and stem the epidemic at its source in West Africa."