Updated Nov 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden picks Ron Klain as White House chief of staff

Vice President JoeBiden (R) joined by Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain (L), speaks during a meeting regarding Ebola at the Eisenhower Executive office building November 13, 2014
Ron Klain and Biden in Washington, D.C., in 2014. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden announced Wednesday veteran Democratic operative Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff, highlighting their long history of working together on crucial issues related to the economy and public health crises.

Why it matters: Klain's experience working across the aisle and his role on Biden's coronavirus task force are two signals of the type of leadership Biden wants to bring to the White House.

  • His work on the task force has elevated his public profile on the top issue ravaging the country and on which Biden centered his presidential campaign near the end.
  • He was long thought to be the top choice for this spot, considered among the most critical unelected government positions.

Between the lines: Klain is a multifaceted Democratic operative, with a legal background and years of experience serving as a campaign adviser to presidential and VP candidates. He previously served as chief of staff at the White House to both Vice Presidents Al Gore and Biden.

  • In a statement, Biden touted the "deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum" of Klain, who previously clerked for Supreme Court  Justice Byron White.
  • Klain managed the Ebola outbreak response in 2014 under then-President Obama's administration and he's appeared in videos this year to highlight the Biden team's work on the COVID-19 crisis.
  • He often appears on MSNBC as well to talk about their work on the pandemic.
  • Although he's been part of the Washington establishment for decades, several Democratic activists and liberal operatives have privately told Axios that Klain was the best choice out of the others speculated to be in consideration.

What they're saying: "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," said Biden in a statement.

  • “It's the honor of a lifetime to serve Biden in this role, and I am humbled by his confidence," Klain said in a statement.
  • "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."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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