Updated Sep 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: White House prepares for post-midterm turnover

President Joe Biden speaks at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.

President Biden speaks at the start of a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The White House is launching a talent search to be ready for turnover in President Biden's cabinet and other senior administration roles after the 2022 midterm elections.

Driving the news: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has tapped former administration officials Jeff Zients and Natalie Quillian to help oversee a wide talent search effort outside the administration to bring in new talent, an administration official told Axios.

Why it matters: Nearly all of the positions for which Zients and Quillian will be drawing up lists for would require Senate confirmation, which may be complicated if Republicans take control of the chamber post-midterms.

The big picture: The Biden administration has not grappled with cabinet turnover in its first two years — a reflection of loyalties to the President, sense of purpose around governing through a pandemic and differences in style and tenor from former President Trump's approach to top aides.

  • The process now underway is an effort to ensure the administration is ready for potential departures from the cabinet, deputy cabinet and senior administration as is common after elections.

How it works: Zients and Quillian will report to Presidential Personnel Office Director Gautam Raghavan and work closely with Klain to reach out to and interview candidates in Congress, state government and across industries.

  • Their lists of recommendations will then be presented to Biden.
  • Zients and Quillian will serve temporarily as special government employees, taking no compensation.

The details: Zients and Quillian have both been involved with staffing and personnel decisions on the Biden-Harris transition team in 2020.

  • Zients was a co-chairman of the Biden transition team before becoming White House Covid-19 response coordinator.
  • Quillian was previously Deputy Coordinator of COVID-19 Response, and her purview as deputy campaign manager also included personnel responsibilities too, amongst other portfolio items.

What they're saying: "There's probably a fair amount of job satisfaction," said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who tracks turnover.

  • "The lack of turnover is really good, not just for Biden and his appointees, but for the departments and the civil servants that work in those departments. It enables the president to enact their programs."
  • "Bringing in former staff to support PPO [Presidential Personnel Office]—that strikes me as something new," she added, noting that the role of the Presidential Personnel Office is to be constantly recruiting and finding people for the top jobs.
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