Joe Biden has named Ron Klain, a veteran adviser, as his White House chief of staff, in the president-elect’s first major personnel appointment since defeating Donald Trump in the US election.
Mr Biden said Mr Klain had been “invaluable” to him over many years, including when the former US vice-president to Barack Obama was tasked with rescuing the economy in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis. The US president-elect said Mr Klain had also been instrumental in steering the US response to the Ebola epidemic of the last decade.
“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,” Mr Biden said in a statement.
Mr Klain will play a central role in forming the team that will assume office after Mr Biden is inaugurated on January 20. Mr Biden has pledged to create the most diverse cabinet in US history. But to do so, he will have to balance the demands of moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic party.
The appointment of Mr Klain was welcomed by Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who along with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is among of the most influential progressive voices inside the party.
“@RonaldKlain is a superb choice for Chief of Staff,” Ms Warren tweeted. “He understands the magnitude of the health and economic crisis and he has the experience to lead this next administration through it. Ron has earned trust all across the entire Democratic party.”
Mr Biden was expected to choose Mr Klain for the role, which involves running the White House and managing access to the president. The post has been often been held by political heavyweights such as James Baker, who served in the job for Ronald Reagan, and Leon Panetta, for Bill Clinton.
The position carried less sway in the Trump administration as Mark Meadows, the current chief of staff, and his three confirmed predecessors (and one interim) struggled to manage an unpredictable president.
Mr Klain has worked for Mr Biden in different roles since 1986, when the former senator from Delaware served on the Senate judiciary committee. He was a top adviser to Mr Biden during the 2020 campaign as well as in 1988 and 2008, when Mr Biden ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In addition to being chief of staff to Mr Biden as vice-president, Mr Klain was the White House Ebola response co-ordinator from 2014 to 2015. He has also served as chief of staff to former vice-president Al Gore.
Frank Jannuzi, a former top Asia adviser to Mr Biden, said the choice signalled that the president-elect would run a professional operation.
“Biden has chosen a trusted confidant who runs a tight ship,” said Mr Jannuzi, who heads the Asia-focused Mansfield Foundation. “This suggests the discipline and rigour on policy co-ordination that Biden demanded as a senator and as vice-president will also be hallmarks of his presidency.”
While the Georgetown university and Harvard Law School graduate was widely seen as the obvious choice, Mr Klain only rose to the top of the shortlist after patching up his relationship with Mr Biden. Mr Klain had previously supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, before Mr Biden had decided he would not seek the White House.
Mr Biden has said he would try to name several of his cabinet secretary picks before the Thanksgiving holiday. Most defence experts in Washington believe he will choose Michèle Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, to serve as the first female defence secretary.
Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy aide to Mr Biden, is expected to be named secretary of state or national security adviser, while many experts assume that Mr Biden will select Jake Sullivan, a former close aide to Mrs Clinton, for a top domestic policy job in the White House.
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