By Erik Wasson - 01/17/12 08:15 PM EST
President Obama on Tuesday appointed Jeffrey Zients as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Zients replaces Jack Lew, who is leaving his post as budget director to become White House chief of staff.
“I’m pleased to designate Jeff Zients to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Since day one, Jeff has demonstrated superb judgment and has provided sound advice on a whole host of issues,” Obama said in a statement.
“With decades of experience, Jeff has been a tremendous asset to our team and I’m confident in his ability to help us rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility pay off and the middle class has a chance to get ahead.”
By naming an acting director, Obama avoids a confirmation battle with the Senate this year.
Zients has led the effort to streamline the government, including a newly announced proposal to merge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with other federal agencies.
His appointment skips over the newly appointed deputy director in charge of the budget, Heather Higginbottom.
Higginbottom has been criticized by Senate Republicans for being too green for the job. She was confirmed by the Senate after a 10-month delay in the fall.
A Senate source said that it remains unclear if Zients or Lew will testify before Congress once the president releases his budget next month. By law, the budget is to come out by the first Monday in February.
Lew was named chief of staff by Obama this month after Bill Daley abruptly announced he was resigning in order to return to Chicago. He is expected to continue his role as chief negotiator with Congress on deficit and tax matters.
—This story was first posted at 3:00 p.m. and has been updated.