WASHINGTON — President Biden plans to name Jeffrey D. Zients, his former coronavirus response coordinator, as the next White House chief of staff heading into a critical new phase as he confronts a Republican House and is expected to kick off a re-election campaign, people familiar with the decision said on Sunday.
Mr. Zients will replace Ron Klain, who has run Mr. Biden’s White House since the president took office two years ago and is preparing to step down sometime after the State of the Union address on Feb. 7. The change at the top may presage other personnel shifts in the coming weeks and months as the White House gears up for the 2024 election.
An entrepreneur and management consultant who organized the largest vaccination campaign in American history, Mr. Zients is widely respected in Biden circles as a strong and capable technocratic leader, but he has little of the political experience of a typical chief of staff heading into a re-election. His selection suggests that the president may lean on Mr. Zients to help run the government while other advisers focus on the politics of winning a second term.
Several other more politically seasoned advisers are expected to take up some of the duties handled by Mr. Klain, including Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the president; Steven J. Ricchetti, his White House counselor; and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a deputy chief of staff. It was not clear whether that shift in responsibilities will be formally announced or more of an informal understanding.
Mr. Zients’s selection, reported earlier by The Washington Post, did not come as much of a surprise, according to several administration officials, who said that he had long been discussed as a replacement for Mr. Klain. After stepping down as a coronavirus response coordinator last spring, Mr. Zients stayed in the president’s orbit, leading a search for possible staff members who could serve during the second half of Mr. Biden’s term as officials leave or shift to the re-election effort.
Mr. Zients has long been trusted with overseeing major personnel decisions. He is the one who reached out to Jen Psaki, a former White House communications director for President Barack Obama, and suggested that she come work for Mr. Biden’s administration as his press secretary.
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a close Biden confidant, said on Sunday that he would not comment on whether Mr. Zients had been hired but praised Mr. Zients’s skills. “He’s got a lot of the same sort of skills and talent that made Ron Klain so successful,” Mr. Coons said.
Mr. Zients was considered the best choice for what aides expect will be a challenging period inside the White House, with many of the president’s top advisers focused on his expected re-election campaign and the political fights with Republicans in the House, according to a person familiar with the decision.
He will take over at a time when a new special counsel has been appointed to investigate the mishandling of classified documents discovered at Mr. Biden’s private office and Wilmington, Del., home. At the invitation of Mr. Biden’s lawyers, the F.B.I. conducted a nearly 13-hour search of the president’s Wilmington home on Friday and found six more items with classified markings.