President Joe Biden will likely name former COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients as his new chief of staff, the Western Journal reported. Ron Klain, who currently holds the position, is expected to vacate in the coming weeks.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, sources close to the matter confirmed Zients would take the position over. He left his post as the coronavirus response coordinator in April.
Zients has a proven track record after serving as vice chairman for Biden's transition team following his election as president. He had served as former President Barack Obama's director of the National Economic Council as well as the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The incoming chief of staff has also worked in the private sector, which some on the left are claiming is a liability. The founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, Jeff Hauser, panned Zients as Biden's pick.
The progressive group advocates for more left-leaning government appointments, and Hauser believes Zients isn't a good fit with Biden's liberal agenda. "Unfortunately, Zients is a veteran of private equity, rapacious health care providers, and Big Tech, which sets up a fundamental question that could determine Biden’s political future: Will a Zients-led executive branch pursue the unpopular misconduct of people like Jeffrey Zients?" Hauser said.
"It would be against Zients’ character to pursue corporate lawbreaking, but it is also the only way Biden can retain the mantle of populist against the likes of [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis and Trump," Hauser claimed. However, Biden is likely more concerned with having help pulling his administration out of a tailspin.
This change comes as Biden is dealing with a scandal surrounding classified documents unlawfully kept in at least two locations. With the midterm elections behind him and his 2024 re-election on the horizon, Biden will need a proven fixer like Zients to head up his staff.
Zients has a reputation for getting things done as CEO of the Washington consulting firm Advisory Board Co. He was a valuable asset to Obama, who tapped him to fix the technical issues during the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program that gave rebates to people junking their less fuel-efficient vehicles.
He also helped when the GI Bill program went digital and streamlined the signup process. However, Zients got his reputation as "Mr. Fix It" when he unraveled the mess that was the HealthCare.gov rollout in the fall of 2013.
Still, Zients is a troublesome pick considering his single-mindedness on COVID-19 mitigation measures, including vaccinations. Although he'll be in charge of staffing, bringing in others like himself could spell trouble for Biden's re-election.
Shortly before leaving his position, Zients lamented that a spending bill did not include funding to vaccinate the world, The Hill reported. "It is a real disappointment that there’s no global funding in this bill," he said in April as Congress prepared to throw more money at COVID-19.
"This virus knows no borders, and it’s in our national interest to vaccinate the world and protect against possible new variants," Zients added. "Without additional funding for a global response, we won’t have resources to help get more shots in arms in countries in need," he said.
At the time, Zients was calling to vaccinate world populations, interest in booster shots had plummeted in the U.S. By December, only about 15% of those eligible for the bivalent booster shot took one, NPR reported.
Biden is facing a tough re-election and needs to right his ship. Whether Zients will be the man to help him do it remains to be seen in the face of the president's new legal challenges.