POLITICS

Ron Klain, Obama's 'Ebola Czar,' To Be Biden's White House Chief Of Staff

The longtime Democratic adviser is a consensus pick in the Democratic Party.

Ronald Klain, who oversaw the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, will be President-elect Joe Biden’s White House chief of staff, HuffPost confirmed with Biden’s campaign.

Klain, a longtime Biden adviser who served as his vice presidential chief of staff from 2009 to 2011, has long been rumored as a top contender for the position. He played a lead role in Biden’s campaign, advising him on the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery. 

The chief of staff is one of the most important positions in the White House. Klain will oversee the hiring and management of all White House personnel, be responsible for the president’s daily meetings and manage negotiations with Congress. The news was first reported by The Washington Post and The New York Times  Wednesday evening.

Biden emphasized Klain’s experience handling the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as well as the Ebola health crisis as his chief qualifications for the job.

“Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together, including as we rescued the American economy from one of the worst downturns in our history in 2009 and later overcame a daunting public health emergency in 2014,” Biden said in a statement. “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.”

President Barack Obama tapped Ronald Klain to coordinate the United States' response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014.
President Barack Obama tapped Ronald Klain to coordinate the United States' response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014.

Klain has had a long career in the public and private sector. He worked as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron White before entering politics. He worked for now-Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the 1980s and 1990s, then joined Bill Clinton’s presidential administration and oversaw his judicial nominations — including that of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He served as chief of staff for former Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno and had a stint at the official campaign arm for Senate Democrats. He has advised presidential nominees, including John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Biden, for more than a decade.

More recently, he’s been the top lawyer at a D.C.-based venture capital firm for startups called Revolution.

Notably, Klain is a consensus pick among Democrats. A longtime establishment Democratic aide, he is a welcome figure to many on the left wing of the party, who see him as the best option out of Biden’s inner circle.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) praised Biden’s choice Wednesday on Twitter, calling him a “superb choice for Chief of Staff.”

“He understands the magnitude of the health and economic crisis and he has the experience to lead this next administration through it,” Warren tweeted. “Ron has earned trust all across the entire Democratic Party.”

Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, a group that works to elect progressives to Congress, said previously that he hoped Klain would get the job, noting that Klain understood the leftward shift within the party.

“As Klain said himself in the primary, the party consensus has moved into a new era,” Shahid tweeted in October, a sentiment echoed by other progressive voices.

As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates hit record highs in the United States, the Biden administration has emphasized Klain’s background in handling infectious diseases.

Klain was tapped to coordinate the United States’ response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, and he set up the White House pandemic office a year later. The Trump administration disbanded the office in 2018 during a reorganization under former national security adviser John Bolton.

Klain warned back in 2017 that the Trump administration was unprepared to handle a deadly infectious disease, and he continued to emphasize afterward that Trump’s policies and views “would lead to the loss of many lives in the event of an epidemic.”

In March, when it was clear that Biden would be the Democratic presidential nominee, Klain recorded a viral video in front of a whiteboard explaining how Trump had bungled the United States’ response to the public health crisis. The Trump campaign zeroed in on Klain, attempting to discredit him.

“I look forward to helping him and the Vice President-elect assemble a talented and diverse team to work in the White House, as we tackle their ambitious agenda for change, and seek to heal the divides in our country,” Klain said in a statement.