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Former Covid chief Jeff Zients to replace Ron Klain as White House chief of staff, Biden confirms

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) is joined by Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain (L) in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, U.S. November 13, 2014.

Larry Downing | Reuters

Jeff Zients, former White House Covid-19 response coordinator under Biden and an economic advisor to former President Barack Obama, will replace Ron Klain as White House chief of staff, President Joe Biden confirmed in a statement Friday.

“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.

Zients is a longtime ally of both Biden and Klain and has a reputation of getting things done. Biden first worked with Zients when he was acting director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama and helped implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He later helped turn around healthcare.gov after it’s hectic rollout and served as Obama’s head of the National Economic Council.

His work turning around the Obamacare website gave him the nickname “Mr. Fix-It.”

Zients helped with Biden’s transition team and then moved on to oversee the White House’s coronavirus response. He left the job in April of last year. In recent weeks he has returned to the White House to help coordinate staff turnover after the midterms, where he has worked closely with Klain.

“It is important to fill Ron’s shoes with someone who understands what it means to lead a team, and who is as focused on getting things done,” Biden said. “I’ve seen Jeff Zients tackle some of the toughest issues in government.”

The White House will hold an official transition event next week to welcome Zients and thank Klain, Biden said in his statement. Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s White House Council of Economic Advisers who served as Biden’s chief economist and economic advisor during the Obama administration, expressed support for Zients in a tweet.

“Really excited about working with Jeff Zients to implement the @POTUS agenda for bottom-up, middle-out, sustainable growth,” Bernstein wrote. “After @WHCOS himself, can’t think of anyone more ready to hit the ground running on this essential work.”

Zients has had extensive experience outside of government in the business sector. He worked at Bain & Co. consulting and later Mercer Management Consulting. Zients worked as CEO of health care consulting firm the Advisory Board Company, which is now part of UnitedHealth.

In Washington, Zients is also known as the co-founder of the wildly popular Call Your Mother bagel shop and “Jew-ish” deli.

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