President Joe Biden is likely to choose Jeff Zients to replace Ron Klain as the next White House chief of staff. Zients ran the administration’s response to Covid-19 and held high-level jobs in the Obama administration.
Biden chose Zients after an internal search, when it became clear that Klain, who is expected to resign in the next few weeks, liked Zients as his replacement. This played a big role in the president’s decision. Klain asked Zients to lead a search for talent because he thought there would be a lot of staff turnover after the midterm elections. However, the Democrats did better than expected, so this didn’t happen.
By replacing Klain with Zients, Biden is turning to a consultant with more business experience than political experience as he starts his third year as president. Some people inside the administration were surprised by the choice of Zients, since Biden’s and Zients’ management styles were different early on in the administration.
But Biden was impressed with Zients’ work as the coronavirus response coordinator, which he took over from what officials called the Trump administration’s “largely dysfunctional” effort.
One source said that the search was influenced by the fact that the next two years of Biden’s presidency will be mostly about putting the laws that were passed in his first two years into effect, and that Zients is known inside the government as a “master implementor.”
During the Obama administration, he handled the coronavirus response and helped with the botched launch of HealthCare.gov in 2013. This showed how good he was at running things. Zients, who is 56, is now on better terms with Biden, his top advisors, and several Cabinet members. Zients is not seen as a political operator, but he has worked in two administrations and has a reputation for being a good technocrat. Both of these things are seen as important for what Biden will face in the coming year.
“A Good Person Who Knows How To Run A Business”
Zients (whose name rhymes with “science”) first joined the Biden administration in December 2020, when the then-president-elect named him the White House coronavirus czar. As Biden took office, it was his job to stop the coronavirus pandemic, get an approved vaccine out to a large number of people, and fix the economy.
When he left that job more than a year later, Biden called Zients “a man of service and an expert manager” and talked about how the US had made progress getting people vaccinated and stopping the pandemic while Zients was in charge. Biden said, “I will miss his advice, and I’m grateful for his service.”
Zients was the country’s first chief performance officer at the start of the Obama administration in 2009. His job was to make the government run better and cheaper. As deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, he was also in charge of these tasks. In the end, he would take over as acting director of that office.
Under Obama, Zients was also the head of the National Economic Council and the president’s assistant for economic policy.
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He is credited with fixing the website for signing up for Obamacare, Healthcare.gov, which had problems and crashed soon after it went live in 2013. Obama’s landmark health care law was built around the website, which was an online marketplace for health insurance. Zients was the problem solver, and he helped the US Department of Health and Human Services figure out how to fix things.
Zients has a lot of connections in the business world. Before he joined the government, he was the chairman, chief executive officer, and chief operating officer of the Advisory Board Company and the chairman of the Corporate Executive Board, two consulting firms in the Washington area. By the time he was 35, he was on Fortune’s list of the richest Americans under 40, ranking 25th with an estimated worth of $149 million after the Advisory Board went public.
He also started the investment firm Portfolio Logic, which focuses on health care and business services. After he left the Obama administration, he was CEO of the holding company Cranemere and on Facebook’s board of directors for two years. Zients also had money in the popular deli in Washington, DC, called Call Your Mother. Once a week, he would bring bagels to the White House office to share with the staff.
Before becoming the coronavirus czar at the White House, Zients sold his shares in Facebook and Call Your Mother. When his financial information became public in March 2021, he was worth at least $89.3 million. This made him the richest member of Biden’s Cabinet.
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