Last week’s election results haven’t dealt Biden a strong hand to pursue his legislative agenda. Biden faces a high likelihood of becoming the first Democrat in modern history to assume office without his party controlling Congress. Republicans have 50 seats in the Senate, and only need to win one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs in January to keep their majority.
Democrats have already won the House, but Republicans flipped several seats to chip away at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s majority.
With control of the Senate still up in the air, Biden also may not want to choose popular progressive figures such as Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar. Removing Democrats from the Senate and adding them to his Cabinet may increase GOP hopes of flipping those seats in upcoming special elections.
Warren, who, according to Fox News, is eyeing a job as Treasury secretary in the Biden administration, wrote a Wednesday op-ed in The Washington Post. She urged Biden to carry out his ticket’s "explicit plans to create new union jobs in clean energy, increase Social Security benefits, expand health care, cancel billions of dollars in student-loan debt, hold law enforcement accountable, make the wealthy pay their fair share, tackle climate change and provide for universal child care.
Elizabeth Warren drops out of 2020 presidential race.
“The lesson is clear,” Warren added. “Bold policies to improve opportunity for all Americans are broadly popular. Voters recognize that these reforms are necessary to fix what is broken in our nation.”
Klain will lead a White House staff likely to be consumed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread unchecked across the nation, and he’ll face the challenge of working with a divided Congress that could include a Republican-led Senate. Klain served as the coordinator to the Ebola response during the 2014 outbreak.
Biden said he chose Klain for the position because his longtime experience in Washington had prepared him for such challenges.
“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,” Biden said.
Klain served as chief of staff for Biden during Barack Obama’s first term, was chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore in the mid-1990s and was a key adviser on the Biden campaign, guiding Biden’s debate preparations and coronavirus response. He’s known and worked with Biden since the Democrat’s 1987 presidential campaign.
Choosing Klain is also likely to assuage some concerns among progressives who had been gearing up for a fight over one of the first and biggest staff picks Biden will make as he builds out his White House team. The chief of staff is typically a gatekeeper for the president, crafts political and legislative strategy and often serves as a liaison to Capitol Hill in legislative negotiations.
Progressives had expressed concerns that Biden would pick one of his other former chiefs of staff: Steve Richetti, who faces skepticism for his work as a lobbyist, or Bruce Reed, who is seen as too much of a moderate to embrace reforms pushed by the party’s base. But progressives see Klain as open to working with them on top priorities including climate change and health care.