White House chief of staff Ron Klain is reportedly planning to step down in the very near future, making him the highest-level staffer to leave the Biden administration yet.
Although rumors of his impending departure have been swirling for several months, they have intensified considerably since the midterm elections.
Expected or not, Klain’s exit will be a blow to President Joe Biden. He is losing one of his closest allies.
According to The New York Times, Klain is the longest-serving first chief of staff of any Democratic president in more than 50 years.
Senior White House officials told the Times that Klain will likely announce his resignation after Biden delivers his State of the Union address on Feb. 7.
So far, no replacement for Klain has been selected. Possibilities for the position include Labor Secretary Marty Walsh; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; former Delaware Gov. Jack A. Markell; Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s former coronavirus response coordinator; and advisers Anita Dunn, Steven J. Ricchetti and Susan Rice.
Klain has served under three Democratic presidents in a political career that has spanned more than three decades.
The Times reported that Klain has been key to a string of the administration’s legislative wins and that he is “seen as so influential that Republicans derisively call him a virtual prime minister and Democrats blame him when they are disappointed in a decision.”
Compared to the high turnover rate of Vice President Kamala Harris’ staff, Biden’s staff has been relatively stable.
Naturally, the Times couldn’t resist telling readers, “By this point in his presidency, Donald J. Trump was already on his third chief of staff and his third national security adviser and had lost more than half of his original 15 cabinet secretaries.”
Several additional resignations are likely in the weeks following the State of the Union speech, the Times’ sources said. One expected departure is Brian Deese, the president’s economic adviser.
“Finding a successor who encompasses all of [Klain’s] skills will not be easy and may well be impossible,” Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, told the Times. “They are headed into a re-election campaign that also increases Ron’s value in that he has campaign experience and political skills.”
(Psst: They may not be headed into a re-election campaign.)
Klain’s replacement will have to deal with the fallout from Biden’s classified document scandal, which has resulted in the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel. He or she will also have to manage the White House’s response to the House Republicans’ numerous investigations.
The Times noted that “after the rough and tumble of his tenure, Mr. Klain took the midterm results as validation.”
And it shared a quip Klain wrote in an email to a colleague on election night: “Maybe we don’t suck as much as people thought.”
Yeah, you actually do.
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