Who you gonna call: Klain or Ricchetti?
With help from Allie Bice and Daniel Payne
Welcome to POLITICO’s 2021 Transition Playbook, your guide to the first 100 days of the Biden administration
If there’s something strange
In the president’s plan
Who you gonna call?
If there’s something weird
And the pay-fors stink
Who you gonna call?
For Democratic lawmakers who want face-time and policy answers from the new administration the two most senior people to call are White House chief of staff RONALD KLAIN and counselor to the president STEVE RICCHETTI.
Speaker NANCY PELOSI, Majority Leader STENY HOYER and Majority Whip JIM CLYBURN go to Ricchetti when they need an ear in the White House, multiple people familiar with their relationships told Transition Playbook.
Ricchetti, a longtime aide to President JOE BIDEN and a former lobbyist, is seen as a Washington fixture by most lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The longer you’ve been in D.C. the more likely you are to have worked with him.
“Ricchetti has longer institutional relationships with members,” one source with knowledge of the relationships explained. Klain, a longtime Biden advisor himself who previously served as Ebola coordinator under President BARACK OBAMA, is less known by senior members.
Ricchetti, who was also chairman of Biden’s campaign, arguably has more leeway in his advisory role, multiple sources said, and he isn’t bogged down with managing staff.
Multiple members, including Rep. GREGORY MEEKS (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. JOHN YARMUTH (D-Ky.), chair of the House Budget Committee, said they have yet to build a relationship with Klain. “I don’t know Ron, so I don’t go to him,” as Yarmuth put it to our SARAH FERRIS (a must follow! Click here).
“I do have a good relationship with Ricchetti so that’s why I call him,” said Rep. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-Ariz.), who added that he also turns to former Rep. CEDRIC RICHMOND, now director of the Office of Public Engagement.
(Richmond and Ricchetti are also two of the main administration officials who field calls from CEOs, according to two people familiar with the dynamic. “Ricchetti does some with people he knows, but Cedric’s the point person on this,” one of the people said.)
LOUISA TERRELL and the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, have also been a flurry of activity on the Hill with at least 275 calls with chiefs of staff, staff directors, or members (including 81+ calls with Republicans), according to the White House.
But Klain and Ricchetti are the most senior White House officials regularly in touch with lawmakers.
The two are both Midwesterners and longtime Democratic hands who worked in President BILL CLINTON’s White House. Both of them later became lobbyists — Ricchetti worked for many of the left-wing’s adversaries like pharmaceutical companies — though they each deregistered more than a decade ago. And they both, at different points, served as Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration.
Some Democrats also said it was no surprise to see Ricchetti join Biden for the president’s first game of golf as commander in chief last weekend. Ricchetti has also ridden several times with Biden on Marine One.
That’s not to say Klain isn’t inundated with phone calls and meeting requests from lawmakers. He talked individually to a dozen Senators in the past week and met at the White House with over 25 members of the House in the past 10 days in various groupings, a source familiar told us.
He’s established himself as something of a progressive whisperer, giving White House insight and connections to the left-wing of the party. As POLITICO reported in March, Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) has a regular line of communication with Klain.
In an email, a White House official told Transition Playbook that “The President, Vice President and Administration officials across the board are engaging members on both sides of the aisle with a robust strategy to ensure we make the needed investments to ensure America’s economic competitiveness.”
The White House also noted that Klain and Ricchetti occasionally team up, as they did this past week in meetings with moderates House members like the Blue Dogs.
But, “Steve spends much more time talking to members [than Klain], particularly House leadership,” one Democratic lobbyist told Transition Playbook.
Sen. TIM KAINE (D-Va.) told our NICHOLAS WU (another must follow!) he calls both men but for notably different reasons: “I kind of view Klain as the ‘operate government guy’ and Ricchetti as kind of a ‘legislative backing-and-forthing and negotiation guy.’”
“Others might use them differently but if it’s a kind of executive function, operation of government, Klain is sort of my go-to. And if it’s ‘what are we going to do about healthcare,’ ’what kind of negotiations should we be having to get this provision in the workforce, infrastructure bill,’ stuff like that, I tend to talk to Richettti,” Kaine added.
On the flip side, the Progressive Caucus hasn’t had much, if any, interaction with Ricchetti, said one person familiar with the dynamic. But they’ve had open access to Klain and from the beginning saw his addition to the White House as a clear sign they’d be heard. In fact, many progressives actively pushed Biden to pick Klain over Ricchetti for the chief of staff position because of the latter’s past corporate lobbying work.
Not all lawmakers, however, were forthcoming about whom they prefer to talk to when they need answers, want a policy changed, or student debt forgiven.
“Oh, I am not touching that one,” said Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) as she walked away from Wu and hopped on an elevator.
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He participated in the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by the State Department, alongside climate envoy JOHN KERRY and Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN.
Later in the day, he received a Covid-19 briefing with the vice president.
She also participated in the Leaders Summit on Climate, and led a Northern Triangle roundtable with leaders of charitable foundations that are active in the region.
Roundtable attendees included: Rockefeller Brothers Fund Director ARTURO AGUILAR, Rockefeller Brothers Fund CEO STEPHEN HEINZ, Open Society Foundation President MARK MALLOCH-BROWN, Foundation for a Just Society CEO NICKY McINTYRE, Seattle International Foundation Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives ERIC OLSON and Ford Foundation President DARREN WALKER.
With the Center for Presidential Transition
Who was the first president to celebrate Earth Day?
(Answer is at the bottom.)
SEC GETS A NEW ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR — SEC Chair GARY GENSLER announced today that ALEX OH, a former prosecutor, will be the agency’s enforcement director, KELLIE MEJDRICH reports. The SEC says that Oh will be the agency’s first woman of color to serve in the post.
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MESSONNIER REASSIGNED — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention respiratory disease chief NANCY MESSONNIER has been reassigned from her position heading the agency’s Covid-19 vaccine task force, SARAH OWERMOHLE, ERIN BANCO and ADAM CANCRYN report.
Messonnier clashed with the Trump administration over her early warnings about Covid-19, with former President DONALD TRUMP threatening to fire her and publicly dismissing her dire projections.
Messonnier’s long public silence was supposed to end when Biden assumed office and strove to put more scientists at the forefront of the pandemic response. But she also had differences with Biden officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Messonnier is being absorbed into an incident management response team headed by CDC Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY.
PROPOSED RULE ROLLBACK — The Biden administration is restoring transgender protections in homeless shelters, reversing a Trump proposal, KATY O’DONNELL reports.
The Trump proposal would have rolled back transgender protections in HUD’s 2016 Equal Access rule, which mandated access to shelter based on a person’s self-expressed gender identity.
DELAYS — Biden’s nomination of ERIC LANDER to be his top science adviser has been delayed because of Sen. MARIA CANTWELL’s (D-Wash.) concerns about two meetings the nominee had with JEFFREY EPSTEIN, Alex, Theo and MARIANNE LeVINE report.
Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, wanted more clarity on the Lander’s associations with Epstein. The White House confirmed that Lander, Biden’s nominee to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, met with Cantwell, but the senator didn’t elaborate on the meeting.
“We’re having a hearing on him next week and we’ll see what happens with that,” Cantwell said.
DEADLOCKED: The Senate Finance Committee deadlocked on the nomination of CHIQUITA BROOKS-LaSURE to run the federal Medicare and Medicaid agency, RACHEL ROUBEIN reports. That means Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER will need to schedule a vote to discharge the nomination from committee.
The 14-14 party-line vote came after Republicans harshly criticized the Biden administration’s decision last week to revoke an extension of a Texas Medicaid program, which was approved in the final days of the Trump administration. Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas) threatened to hold up the nomination when it reached the full Senate.
BANKING POLICY SHOWDOWN — In a rare move, the acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is lobbying Congress to preserve a Trump-era lending rule that critics say is predatory, triggering a forceful rebuke from Senate Banking Committee Chairman SHERROD BROWN (D-Ohio).
The rule loosened restrictions on loans made by banks in partnership with other firms like online lenders, ZACHARY WARMBRODT writes. Consumer watchdogs have warned that it could unleash predatory loans by enabling “payday” lenders to evade state interest rate caps. Brown and other Senate Democrats have been trying to rally support for a vote on legislation that would nullify the rule.
But BLAKE PAULSON, the acting comptroller of the currency, wrote to Brown and other lawmakers last week to argue against undoing the regulation, leading Brown to blast the agency’s attempted intervention. (Biden hasn’t nominated his own pick to lead the agency yet.)
Biden to propose raising capital gains tax rate to up to 43.4 percent (Bloomberg News’ Laura Davison and Allyson Versprille)
We’ll give you one guess which former president Sen. Bob Casey cited when talking about Biden’s first 100 days (Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Wingrove and Nancy Cook)
Biden will seek tax increase on rich to fund child care and education (NYT’s Jim Tankersley)
Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG on MSNBC’s 6pm ET show, “The Beat with Ari Melber”
Secretary MARTY WALSH on MSNBC’s 10pm ET show, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has takes haughter than an early maaawning coffee from Dunkin.
Fox News producer PATRICK WARD tweeted his ranking of the best Boston accents within the Biden administration.
Ward’s ranking puts climate envoy JOHN KERRY in third place (if you even call his an accent), climate adviser GINA McCARTHY in second and Walsh himself in first.
Walsh touted the ranking on Twitter, quote tweeting it with the message: “Confirming what we already knew.”
We’ve previously reported that reviews of Walsh’s accent have been mixed— while a 2013 Boston Globe piece dubbed his accent “what many believe to be the strongest Boston dialect in the city’s mayoral history,” a Time magazine piece in the same year called it “ragged.”
Want to say anything to burnish your Bahstan street cred, John or Gina?
RICHARD NIXON marked the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
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