January 17, 2012 / 9:32 PM / 6 years ago

Obama names Zients as acting budget chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama named senior aide Jeffrey Zients on Tuesday to serve as acting chief of the Office of Management and Budget, the White House said.

Zients, a deputy director and chief performance officer in Obama’s budget office, will step in for Jack Lew, named last week as White House chief of staff to replace Bill Daley.

There was no immediate word whether Zients’ appointment, which comes as Obama prepares to roll out his new budget proposal in coming weeks, means he is in the running to be nominated as OMB director.

Obama’s plans for filling the position remain unclear as he seeks re-election in November. Naming Zients on an interim basis could allow the president to avoid a contentious confirmation fight with Senate Republicans who have stalled many of his nominations.

“Since day one, Jeff has demonstrated superb judgment and has provided sound advice on a whole host of issues,” Obama said in a statement. “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.”

Lew will be a hard act to follow. With Daley resigning after a troubled one-year tenure at the White House, Lew was chosen in part because he is well-versed in congressional politics and has forged strong relations with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Zients has worked at OMB since 2009 and served briefly as acting director in 2010. His 20 years of business experience includes work as a management consultant. He was CEO of the The Advisory Board Company and chairman of the Corporate Executive Board.

Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Eric Walsh

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