Biden Fires Head of Social Security AdministrationThursday, July 22, 2021
Andrew Saul, Social Security Commissioner, appointed by President Trump in 2019, was fired by President Biden on Friday. The move from President Biden came after Saul had refused a request to resign.
Saul’s term at the agency was supposed to last until 2025. The SSA is an independent agency, and the leadership does not typically change with a new administration. Yet, Saul had alienated crucial Democratic constituencies with policies, limited benefits and an anti-union stance. Saul’s deputy, David Black, resigned upon request on Friday.
Biden’s move also came after a recent Supreme Court ruling and memo from the Justice Department that affirmed his authority to remove the commissioner at will. Yet, despite the Court’s ruling and Justice Department’s stance, Saul said in a statement on Friday that he planned to return to work on Monday. “I consider myself the term-protected commissioner of Social Security,” he said.
During Saul’s six-month tenure under the Biden Administration, the administration was met with pressures to dismiss the commissioner from various groups including advocates for the elderly and disabled, and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Accused by labor unions of using labor-busting tactics, the commissioner clashed with labor unions that represent his 60,000 employees. Millions of disabled Americans claim that Saul did not work quickly enough in turning over files to the IRS so that their stimulus checks would be released.
A White House statement was made with the dismissal: “Since taking office, Commissioner Saul has undermined and politicized Social Security disability benefits, terminated the agency’s telework policy that was utilized by up to 25 percent of the agency’s workforce, not repaired SSA’s relationships with relevant Federal employee unions including in the context of COVID-19 workplace safety planning, reduced due process protections for benefits appeals hearings, and taken other actions that run contrary to the mission of the agency and the President’s policy agenda.”
Saul has declined the administration’s decision and said that he planned on coming to work on Monday. Federal personnel experts noted that the administration could block him from using the agency’s computer networks and cut off his paycheck, however.
The move by the White House was met with accusations from congressional Republicans who claim that they have politicized the Social Security Administration. They also noted that Saul was confirmed by a wide margin in 2019. Nevertheless, the recent Supreme Court ruling has strengthened executive power when it comes to independent agencies led by a single appointee.
Biden has appointed Kilolo Kijakazi, the current Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, to serve as Acting Commissioner until they find a permanent nominee to lead the agency.