President-elect Joe Biden named Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff on Wednesday, the first pick for the future Biden administration’s Cabinet. The chief of staff is normally one of the most powerful roles in Washington D.C., since the role involves managing access to the President and planning their schedule.
Klain is highly experienced at federal politics; he worked as Biden’s vice-presidential Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2011, and has served in varying roles under President Obama, Vice President Al Gore, Attorney General Janet Reno, and a number of Senate committees. Perhaps most importantly, given the current situation, Klain served as the White House’s Ebola Response Coordinator at the height of the West African Ebola epidemic.
Klain was picked for his close personal ties to Joe Biden. He has worked with the President-elect ever since the 1980s, serving in all three of Biden’s presidential campaigns (1988, 2008, and 2020), as well as advising Biden when the latter was serving as a U.S. senator. Klain’s appointment is a sign that, rather than consciously hewing to the progressive or neoliberal wings of the Democratic Party, Biden is likely to appoint inhabitants of “Bidenworld” to top positions.
Although Klain is a Capitol Hill veteran, prominent progressive leaders expressed optimism about the pick. United States Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted that Klain is “a superb choice” who has “earned trust all across the entire Democratic Party.” Evergreen Action, a climate-focused pressure group, released a statement pointing out Klain’s work with Al Gore and praising his willingness to “put the science first” when crafting policy.
David Segal, the executive director of Desmand Progress, said that while Klain is “not a movement progressive by any means…the alternatives were squarely aligned with the wants of corporate elites.” Segal’s group had been quietly lobbying for Klain’s appointment before the election.
Biden himself said of Klain:
“Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together… 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.”
Klain’s main tasks in the coming days will be to advise the President-elect, help assemble the rest of his Cabinet picks, and work towards a smooth transition of power. This last task will be the hardest, as Donald Trump and most other Republicans continue to refuse to accept defeat.