Jeff Zients Named White House Chief of Staff

President Biden Jeff Zients Named White House Chief of Staff.

Mr. Zients helmed the White House efforts to increase distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine during the first year of Mr. Biden’s presidency, helping to cobble together a network to make the shots available nationally.

He left the administration in April last year, saying he had no specific job plans, and in recent months was tapped by Mr. Klain to prepare for staff departures and help identify potential replacements, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zients co-chaired Mr. Biden’s presidential transition team in 2020.

The president is turning to Mr. Zients as his next chief of staff because of his reputation as a manager with a history of navigating government bureaucracy, the people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Zients is expected to bring to the job a more decentralized approach than the one favored by Mr. Klain, who was involved in nearly every aspect of day-to-day operations at the White House, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

While Mr. Zients is expected to focus on policy and governing, other longtime aides to Mr. Biden are likely to be more involved in advising the president on political matters as he faces investigations from newly empowered House Republicans and prepares to announce his reelection bid.

In the coming year, White House officials expect to focus on implementing a slate of laws signed by the president since he took office, including measures to fix the country’s aging infrastructure, invest in renewable energy and boost semiconductor manufacturing. Options for major legislative breakthroughs will be limited now that Republicans have taken control of the House reported WSJ Renewal.

Mr. Zients was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, serving as the director of the National Economic Council and a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Zients joined the board of Facebook Inc.—now part of Meta Platforms Inc.—in 2018 after leaving the Obama administration. He was a top executive with the Cranemere Group, an investment holding company.

At the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency, Mr. Zients was appointed the administration’s chief performance officer, a newly created role that centered on making the government more efficient. He later led a mission aimed at fixing, the federal website for the Affordable Care Act, when it experienced technological difficulties in 2013. He brought in private companies and technology firms to undertake a rapid review of the platform’s problems.

Mr. Zients is known as a meticulous planner. In his beginning days handling the Covid-19 response, he scheduled hour-by-hour what needed to be done to execute his pandemic plan. He and Mr. Biden spoke three to four times a week while he was overseeing the coronavirus response.

While Mr. Zients’ selection to handle the pandemic was initially criticized by some progressives who said he lacked public health experience, he earned bipartisan praise in hearings for his efforts to rapidly disseminate vaccines after a bumpy rollout during the end of the Trump administration. About 65% of the population, or more than 200 million people, were fully vaccinated by the time he announced in March 2022 that he would be leaving his position.

He also won high marks for shifting the administration from a more reactive approach to the pandemic to responding to Covid-19 as an ongoing public health issue. He pledged a wartime response to the administration’s global response to Covid-19 but some donations to poor countries fell short of targets because of low demand and limited funding.

Mr. Biden was criticized in 2021 for holding a massive July Fourth party on the South Lawn and declaring “we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus” just as the Delta variant began spreading in the U.S., causing another round of shutdowns.

Later that winter when the Omicron wave caused infections to spike, the lack of testing kits caused long lines and concerns across the country. The president acknowledged in a January 2022 speech that the situation was “frustrating.”

Messrs. Biden and Zients developed a relationship during the Obama administration, and became closer when Mr. Zients was brought on as an adviser to Mr. Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. Mr. Zients doesn’t have the kind of decadeslong relationship with Mr. Biden that some of the president’s closest aides have. But those advisers—including senior White House aides Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed—are expected to continue working closely with Mr. Biden as he prepares to announce his reelection bid in the coming month.

“He has the utmost integrity and that’s why everyone trusts him,” said Andrew Slavitt, who was a senior adviser for the Biden administration Covid-19 response. “He over-communicates and seeks out everyone’s views but does it in a way to push the ball down the field every day.”

Mr. Zients’ experience and ties in the business world has engendered skepticism from some progressive groups, many of whom developed close relationships with Mr. Klain.

Matt Stoller, the director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit that advocates for strict antitrust enforcement, called Mr. Zients “an ugly choice” for the job, noting that he joined the board of Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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