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Jeff Zients, Biden's former COVID czar, set to serve as next White House chief of staff

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Washington — President Biden is set to choose Jeff Zients, his former COVID-19 policy czar, to serve as his next chief of staff, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Zients is expected to take the job shortly after the president's State of the Union address on Feb. 7, the people familiar with the plans said. He will succeed Ron Klain, who is preparing to step down after just more than two years in the role as chief and decades of service to Mr. Biden as a Senate staffer, vice presidential chief of staff and most recently as his top West Wing aide.

Zients didn't respond to requests for comment from CBS News on Sunday. The Washington Post was first to report on Zients' selection.

Chiefs of staff usually serve roughly two years on the job and Klain has spent much of the last several months privately and publicly conveying his desire to move on. His wife, Monica Medina, also serves in the Biden administration as a State Department special envoy for plants and animals.

Zients, 56, is a Washington native and longtime corporate management guru who joined the Obama administration to reimagine the functions of the federal government and rebuild the botched launch of the Affordable Care Act. For Mr. Biden, he served as a consultant at large during his 2020 campaign and presidential transition and was tasked with coordinating the young administration's response to the pandemic, including the distribution of vaccines, public awareness campaigns to promote their use and partnerships with the private sector to accelerate the purchase and distribution of supplies.

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Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 coordinator, speaks during a news conference at the White House on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In announcing Zients' departure from the White House last March, Mr. Biden said he selected him because "there is no one better at delivering results than Jeff," who he praised as a "man of service and an expert manager."

Zients, whose last name rhymes with "pints," attended the prestigious St. Albans prep school in Washington and graduated from Duke University. He briefly worked at the consulting firm Bain & Co. in Boston and later returned to Washington, where he founded the Corporate Executive Board. He also co-founded The Urban Alliance Foundation, a nonprofit organization. After working in the Obama administration, he joined Facebook's board of directors. 

Zients once led an unsuccessful team of investors who sought to buy and operate the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team. And he is an original investor in a chain of Washington-area bagel shops called Call Your Mother.

As chief of staff in the coming year, he will be tasked with overseeing the White House's first significant engagement with House Republicans on policy matters, most crucially raising the federal borrowing limit. And he will take control of the president's central staffing as he launches his 2024 reelection bid. 

While Zients is a longtime Democratic Party donor, he has no campaign experience, meaning such duties are likely to be left mostly to other West Wing aides, including deputy chief of staff Jennifer O'Malley Dillon and senior counselors Anita Dunn, Steve Ricchetti, Bruce Reed and Mike Donilon, who also have worked with Mr. Biden for decades in policy and political roles. At least some of them may leave for the reelection campaign full time or split their time between official and political capacities. 

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