What Biden’s Choice for Chief of Staff Says About His Agenda

On Wednesday, November 11, President-elect Joe Biden tapped Ron Klain, former White House Ebola Response Coordinator and longtime adviser to the President-elect, to be his Chief of Staff. TRP Partner Paul Bock and Senior Vice President Gary Palmquist discuss what this means for the incoming Biden administration’s policy agenda.

President-elect Joe Biden has named long-time confidant Ron Klain to be his White House Chief of Staff. Klain, 59, will serve as a senior adviser and oversee the Executive Office of the President in his new role. The White House chief of staff has long been one of the most powerful jobs in Washington. It’s one of the first jobs that a President-elect usually fills, setting the tone for a new administration. The chief of staff is typically a gatekeeper for the president, crafting political and legislative strategy and often serving as a liaison to Capitol Hill in legislative negotiations.

Klain brings a wealth of government experience to his new role, including previous stints as chief of staff for Biden during his time as Vice President in the Obama administration, as well as former Vice President Al Gore in the mid 1990s. Notably, he served as coordinator to the Ebola response in 2014, giving him valuable public health management credentials as the COVID-19 response looks to consume the President-elect’s opening months in office.

Klain has strong ties to the former Vice President, and has worked with Biden since the President-elect’s 1987 presidential campaign and was chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden was the committee chair. Additionally, he stands out in Washington as someone who is well respected across the political spectrum – a very helpful asset for a President-elect facing significant policy challenges with (at this point) control over only one chamber in Congress. Klain’s Capitol Hill experience could prove invaluable as the incoming administration contends with a potential Senate Republican majority.

It is rare that an incoming Chief of Staff has such a long and close relationship with a president. However, this could turn out to be a huge advantage for President-elect Biden as he tries to quickly tackle the dual threats of economic hardship and rising COVID-19 cases.