President Joe Biden is expected to name Jeff Zients, who ran the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of Biden’s term, as his next chief of staff, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Biden’s current top aide, Ron Klain, is preparing to leave the job in the coming weeks.
Since serving as COVID-19 response coordinator, a job he left in April, Zients has returned to the White House in a low-profile position to work on staffing matters for the remainder of Biden’s first term.
The two people familiar with the matter were not authorized to publicly discuss Biden’s plans before an official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Washington Post first reported on Zients’ expected appointment.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
The change at the highest levels of senior staff comes as Biden passes his two-year mark in office and pivots to a defensive stance against a House Republican majority determined to investigate the president, his administration’s actions and his family.
The White House remains mired in controversy over discoveries of classified documents at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at his former institute in Washington, with the latest tranche of found records disclosed Saturday evening.
Biden, 80, is also preparing to launch his reelection campaign in the coming weeks. He is confronting a Republican presidential field that is far from formed but for now is led by former President Donald Trump.
The president’s main sphere of advisers, in addition to Zients, on politics and legislation will continue to include presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti, senior advisers Mike Donilon and Anita Dunn, legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell, and Jen O’Malley Dillon and Bruce Reed, who are deputy chiefs of staff.
The outgoing chief of staff was known to be friendly with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Some liberal critics of Zients swiftly went on the attack against the appointment even before it was official, highlighting his private-sector ties.
Jeff Hauser, the founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, a progressive group that advocates for liberal appointees in government, said Sunday that the selection of Zients as the top White House aide did not jibe with Biden’s “Scranton Joe” political image.
“Unfortunately, Zients is a veteran of private equity, rapacious health care providers, and Big Tech, which sets up a fundamental question that could determine Biden’s political future: Will a Zients-led executive branch pursue the unpopular misconduct of people like Jeffrey Zients?” Hauser said.
“It would be against Zients’ character to pursue corporate lawbreaking, but it is also the only way Biden can retain the mantle of populist against the likes of [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis and Trump.”
Zients, vice chairman of Biden’s transition operation after the 2020 election, brings significant managerial expertise in government and the private sector. He was the director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The longtime management consultant developed a “Mr. Fix It” reputation, tapped to lead the Obama administration’s effort to repair HealthCare.gov after the bungled initial rollout of the site in fall 2013. Zients served as top executive at the Advisory Board Co., a Washington consulting firm.
Former President Barack Obama also enlisted Zients in 2009 to eliminate the backlog in applicants for the Cash for Clunkers program, which offered rebates to drivers who swapped old cars for fuel-efficient vehicles. Zients later took on a similar challenge to smooth sign-ups for an updated version of the GI Bill.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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