President Biden announced he is picking Jeff Zients as his next chief of staff, ushering in a new top aide as he prepares to launch a reelection bid while contending with a divided Congress.

Biden Zients

Jeff Zients

Zients is replacing longtime chief of staff Ron Klain, who announced Friday that he would step down from his post around the time of the Feb. 7 State of the Union address. Klain in a letter to White House staff said he would leave after “completing an orderly handoff to my successor.”

Biden praised Klain in a letter Friday, saying he’d known him since Klain was a third-year law student who came to work on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“During the last 36 years, Ron and I have been through some real battles together. And when you’re in the trenches with somebody for as long as I have been with Ron, you really get to know the person,” Biden said.

The president said he was confident Zients would continue Klain’s “example of smart, steady leadership.” Biden said the White House would host a transition event next week to thank Klain for his work and welcome Zients.

Zients, 56, is a former business executive who has held a series of posts under Biden and former President Barack Obama. Zients was Biden’s COVID-19 czar and a co-chair of Biden’s transition. He previously served as chair of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama.


More recently, Zients has led an effort to prepare candidates for senior staff and cabinet roles as the White House braces for turnover that is customary at this stage of an administration.

Aides say Zients is known for his managerial prowess. Chiefs of staff are among the most powerful figures in Washington, shaping the president’s daily schedule and acting as a gatekeeper.

The role will evolve this year once Biden announces his expected reelection bid.

The administration’s key priorities this year include raising the U.S. debt limit to avoid a default, implementing the major bills passed in the first half of Biden’s term, and enacting executive measures, including those under threat of legal defeat, like Biden’s student loan cancellation plan.

Zients was the founder and managing partner of Portfolio Logic LLC, an investment firm, and he’s sat on several corporate boards, including Facebook. In 2005, he was part of an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Washington Nationals baseball team.

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