Tanden will replace Jessica Hertz, a former Obama administration attorney who worked more recently in the government affairs office of Facebook. White House officials have praised Hertz as a highly regarded and well-liked member of the team. Hertz will leave the job on Friday, a planned departure that was first reported by Politico last week, and Tanden will start on Monday, the official said.
The staff secretary, who reports to the chief of staff, traditionally plays the role of both traffic cop and honest broker in the White House, with control over the documents that make it to the president, whether they be briefing books or decision memos laying out the arguments on major decisions.
The White House staff secretary has often served as a steppingstone for other roles in government. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers, Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and former White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, a mentor for Tanden, all previously held the job.
“She is uniquely suited to the role because she is a lawyer, which is important, she is tough, and she will discipline important decision-making inside the White House,” Podesta said. “You have to be able to spot that there is something missing, some perspective that wasn’t reflected.”
She is well known in Washington as a policy wonk and political strategist. She came to the White House from the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank where she had served most recently as president and chief executive and before that as a deputy to Podesta.
Biden nominated Tanden last year to become his director of the Office of Management and Budget, but the White House withdrew her nomination in March after it became clear that she lacked the votes to get Senate confirmation. Multiple lawmakers, including Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), objected to partisan comments she had previously made on social media.
Tanden, who is Indian American, would have been the first Asian American woman to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. After her nomination was withdrawn, Asian American leaders — who had already been concerned Tanden would not be confirmed — intensified their criticisms that Biden’s Cabinet would not have sufficient Asian American representation, especially in its secretary-level positions.
Tanden previously served as a senior adviser for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services and a policy adviser to the 2008 presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
In the current White House, Tanden has helped lead the external political effort to pass the Biden economic agenda. She has also been overseeing a review of the U.S. Digital Service, a group of technologists who design and maintain the federal government’s technology infrastructure.
Amy Wang contributed to this report.