Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
FILE - In this March 2, 2011 file photo, Jeff Zients briefs reporters at the White House in Washington. The White House announced Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, that Zients, currently deputy director for Management and Chief Performance Officer, will serve as acting Budget Director.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday named Jeffrey Zients as his acting budget chief but held off on nominating him for the permanent job, avoiding a tough election-year battle with Senate Republicans.

Zients becomes acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, the department in charge of developing Obama's budget proposal, overseeing agency performance and ensuring that the executive branch is putting in place Obama's policies. He takes over leadership of the prominent agency just weeks ahead of Obama's new budget request to Congress.

Zients had been the office's deputy director for management and has already served one stint as acting director, too.

He takes over for Jack Lew, named by Obama as White House chief of staff to replace the departing William Daley.

No Senate confirmation is required for an acting director. Zients was confirmed by the Senate for the deputy job, but any major Obama nomination in this election year is likely to face a fight from Republicans. The White House said Obama has made no decision on a permanent director.