President Joe Biden’s former COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients is reportedly expected to soon replace Ron Klain – who plans to leave the post in February after serving in the role since Biden’s inauguration – as White House chief of staff, sources familiar with the plans say.
The work of Zients, who served as Biden’s COVID response coordinator from early 2021 through April 2022 when he was replaced by Ashish Jha, has been praised by the president since the beginning of his administration for his cross-government management skills and success in bringing the pandemic under control at the start.
Biden has credited Zients for executing on a plan based on decades of management experience to build the infrastructure the US needed to deliver vaccines, tests, treatment, and masks to hundreds of millions of Americans.
After the bungled launch of HealthCare.gov in 2013, the President’s former COVID-19 coordinator also led efforts to fix it so it continues to build economic growth through lowered costs for American families, jobs creation, and a manufacturing and small business boom.
Ahead of the midterm elections, Zients returned to assist Klain with preparations for staff turnover as well as other projects. He has told colleagues since the November midterm elections that he is preparing to leave.
It is anticipated that Zients’s strong relationships in the business community will be an asset to the Biden Administration considering he once served as the acting and deputy director of the Office of the Management and Budget under President Obama, whereas being in Biden’s inner circle for many years helped him develop relationships with every member of the president’s senior advisor group.
Klain, who has been in the role for longer than any other Democratic president’s chief of staff, will likely leave following Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7 but is expected to remain in his current role for some time to help Zients acclimate although he previously co-chaired for the Biden transition team and has worked at Facebook, The Advisory Board Company and CEB.
The announced change comes as Biden readies for a possible reelection bid and is expected to seek another term around the time of the State of the Union and at a time when his approval dropped to his record low 40% last week after the discovery of classified documents from his time as vice president.
As some in the White House transition out to work on a 2024 reelection campaign, Zients’s assignment is expected to precede broader staff changes.
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