Ron Klain stepping down, Jeff Zients in, as White House chief of staff, President Biden confirms
WASHINGTON — Ron Klain is stepping down as White House chief of staff and Jeff Zients will take over the role, President Joe Biden confirmed on Friday, marking the most significant shake-up of his staff since entering office.
Biden credited Klain, who has served as Biden's chief of staff from the beginning, with helping steer some of the biggest successes of his presidency, calling him "a once-in-a-generation talent with a fierce and brilliant intellect" in a statement.
Biden named Zients, who worked as the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, his new chief of staff. Zients, a management consultant and veteran of President Barack Obama’s administration, faces enormous challenges posed by a new Republican-led House of Representatives as Biden is widely expected to soon launch a re-election campaign.
More: Biden to name Jeff Zients, who steered COVID response, as White House chief of staff
Biden's statement confirmed previous reports on Klain's exit and the appointment of Zients. Although Biden did not specify a time for the turnover, he said the White House will host a transition event next week to welcome Zients back to the office.
Klain is expected to stay on until at least Biden's State of the Union address, set for Feb. 7.
"When I ran for office, I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does. A big task ahead is now implementing the laws we’ve gotten passed efficiently and fairly," Biden said.
Since coordinating the administration's response to COVID-19, 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.
Zients has been a member of Biden's inner circle for years.
When Biden was vice president, Zients worked with him as director of the National Economic Council and later served on the board of the Biden Cancer Initiative and as an adviser to Biden's presidential campaign.
Before a string of federal appointments, Zients was CEO of The Advisory Board Co. and chairman of the Corporate Executive Board. He and media titan David Bradley took the two companies public, which made both men multimillionaires.
Biden said he first got to know Zients during the Obama presidency when Zients served as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and was assigned to fix healthcare.gov, the website from the Affordable Care Act that was plagued with problems. Biden said he's watched Zients "tackle some of the toughest issues in government."
"I’m confident that Jeff will continue Ron’s example of smart, steady leadership, as we continue to work hard every day for the people we were sent here to serve," Biden said.
More: White House chief of staff Ron Klain to step down after State of the Union: reports
Biden entered the new year with momentum after Democrats exceeded expectations in the midterm elections but is now under increased scrutiny after a cache of classified documents were found at the president’s former office at a think tank in Washington and at his Wilmington home.
Biden's legislative agenda in a divided Congress is bleak. Just weeks into the new Congress, the White House is facing resistance from House Republicans demanding unspecified spending cuts to raise the debt ceiling. Failure to raise the debt limit could lead to the nation's first-ever default.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
Contributing: Michael Collins
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden: Jeff Zients to replace Ron Klain as White House chief of staff