(Adds background about the U.S. response to Ebola starting in fourth paragraph.)
WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - U.S. Ebola coordinator Ron Klain plans to return to his private sector job at the end of February, capping speculation that the seasoned political aide would play a broader White House role for the rest of President Barack Obama’s tenure.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday Klain was hired as a “special government employee,” a classification that brings consultants on board for a maximum term of 130 days.
Klain’s first day was Oct. 22, meaning his term will expire by March 1. A lawyer who previously served as chief of staff to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, Klain plans to return to his job at Revolution LLC, a venture capital firm owned by AOL co-founder Steve Case.
The White House will evaluate whether it needs to replace Klain when he leaves, Earnest said.
The White House was criticized for scrambling after a Liberian man died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital. Two nurses there had contracted the disease, and officials had to trace hundreds of people who had crossed their paths.
Klain, lauded by Democrats for his ability to coordinate complex projects, was brought in as Ebola “czar” as the White House sought to show it was on top of the crisis. His lack of medical expertise made him a controversial pick.
At the time, the White House said the job would be temporary. Klain told MSNBC in a November interview that he would be returning to private life.
He was cited as a potential replacement for chief of staff Denis McDonough, should there have been a staff shake-up after November elections. But there is no indication that McDonough plans to leave soon.
Klain has worked mainly behind the scenes, stepping out to eulogize a U.S. surgeon who died in November from Ebola after working in his native Sierra Leone. The United States hasn’t had a known case of the disease since then.
Under Klain’s leadership, the government tightened screening procedures and pushed back against calls for travel bans. It also expanded the number of U.S. hospitals able to treat Ebola patients to 35 from three.
Obama has stressed that Congress needs to approve $6.18 billion in emergency funding to help fight the outbreak in West Africa, the worst ever recorded with 17,111 confirmed, suspected or probable cases, according to the World Health Organization.
The fate of that request will become clear this week as Congress rushes to meet a Dec. 11 deadline for funding the government. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Alan Crosby)