Domestic policy adviser Susan Rice is stepping down from her post.
Rice, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, helped the Biden administration with expanding the Affordable Care Act, getting his Inflation Reduction Act into law, and passing gun control legislation. The move comes as the White House is facing controversy over its handling of migrant children who crossed the Southern border.
“As the only person to serve as both National Security Advisor and Domestic Policy Advisor, Susan’s record of public service makes history,” said President Joe Biden in a statement announcing the departure. “But what sets her apart as a leader and colleague is the seriousness with which she takes her role and the urgency and tenacity she brings, her bias towards action and results, and the integrity, humility and humor with which she does this work.”
Rice’s departure leaves a major hole within the top ranks of the White House right as it gears up for a likely re-election campaign and as it faces a stare down with congressional Republicans over raising the debt limit. Among those being eyed as a replacement for her include Neera Tanden, Biden’s staff secretary and a senior adviser, four people with knowledge of the deliberations told POLITICO. Separately, a top White House official said no replacement had been identified yet.
One former administration official said White House aides were talking openly about Tanden’s consideration for Rice’s job over the weekend, calling her potential appointment “pretty damn firm.”
Rice served as U.N. ambassador at the beginning of the Obama administration and later became President Barack Obama’s national security adviser during Obama’s second term. Rice has led the White House Domestic Policy Council since the start of the Biden administration.
“I surprised a lot of people when I named Ambassador Susan Rice as my Domestic Policy Advisor,” Biden said. “Susan was synonymous with foreign policy, having previously served as National Security Advisor and UN Ambassador. But what I knew then and what we all know now — after more than two years of her steady leadership of the Domestic Policy Council — it’s clear: there is no one more capable, and more determined to get important things done for the American people than Susan Rice.”
Rice, whose background had been almost entirely in foreign policy, oversaw a historic two-year period of legislative activity with the passage of a major Covid-19 relief bill, a bipartisan infrastructure overhaul and last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which included $369 billion to combat climate change and lowered the cost of prescription drugs for seniors.
Her tenure also saw Biden sign numerous executive orders related to climate change, health care, gun safety and student loans. But the administration’s approach to the U.S.-Mexico border and its inability to stem a surge of migrants seeking asylum who have overwhelmed border agents has left the president vulnerable to continued Republican attacks on the issue.
The White House next month is poised to end Title 42, lifting a strict Trump-era border policy decried by many Democrats — but that, officials including Rice argued, at times, was necessary to prevent another influx of migrants at the southern border.
Rice has been central to crafting a strategy for replacing Title 42, which the administration plans to unveil later this week.
She also faced heat in recent days over a New York Times report that painted her and other senior officials as dismissive of concerns that child migrants were being exploited amid the administration’s rush to process record numbers of unaccompanied children at the southern border in early 2021. The White House has disputed that portrayal.
Rice’s departure represents the latest high-level shuffle within the White House’s policy apparatus, following the exits of National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Council of Economic Advisers chief Cecilia Rouse earlier this year.
Chief of staff Jeff Zients is also early into his tenure, after taking over for Ron Klain in early February.
The White House moved quickly to replace all three, and the people with knowledge of the deliberations said that elevating Tanden would similarly allow them to quickly plug the vacancy atop the Domestic Policy Council.
Tanden also has experience running a large policy operation, having previously led the influential progressive think tank Center for American Progress, and worked extensively on health care and other domestic priorities both at CAP and as a senior health official in the Obama administration.
Biden initially picked Tanden to run his Office of Management and Budget in late 2020. But her nomination stalled in the face of opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) over her history of combative tweets aimed at GOP politicians and policies.
But Tanden has kept a lower public profile since then, and the top domestic policy job would not require Senate confirmation.
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