President-elect Joe Biden has chosen his longtime adviser Ron Klain—an Indianapolis native and a 1979 graduate of North Central High School—to reprise his role as his chief of staff, installing an aide with decades of experience in the top role in his White House.
Klain, 59, will lead a White House likely to be consumed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread unchecked across the nation, and he’ll face the challenge of working with a divided Congress that could include a Republican-led Senate. Klain served as the coordinator to the Ebola response during the 2014 outbreak.
In a statement Wednesday night, Biden suggested he chose Klain for the position because his longtime experience in Washington had prepared him for such challenges.
“His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again,” Biden said.
Klain served as chief of staff for Biden during Barack Obama’s first term, was chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore in the mid-1990s and was a key adviser on the Biden campaign, guiding Biden’s debate preparations and coronavirus response. He’s known and worked with Biden since the Democrat’s 1987 presidential campaign.
The choice of Klain underscores the effort the incoming Biden administration will place on the coronavirus response from day one. Klain has experience in public health as the Ebola response coordinator and played a central role in drafting and implementing the Obama administration’s economic recovery plan in 2009.
“I’m honored by the President-elect’s confidence and will give my all to lead a talented and diverse team in a Biden-Harris WH,” Klain tweeted.
Choosing Klain is also likely to assuage some concerns among progressives who had been gearing up for a fight over one of the first and biggest staff picks Biden will make as he builds out his White House team. The chief of staff is typically a gatekeeper for the president, crafts political and legislative strategy and often serves as a liaison to Capitol Hill in legislative negotiations.
Progressives had expressed concerns that Biden would pick one of his other former chiefs of staff: Steve Richetti, who faces skepticism for his work as a lobbyist, or Bruce Reed, who is seen as too much of a moderate to embrace reforms pushed by the party’s base. But progressives see Klain as open to working with them on top priorities like climate change and health care.