President Joe Biden on Friday, July 9, fired Trump holdover Commissioner Andrew Saul of the Social Security Administration (SSA) after he declined to leave his post.
Saul and deputy commissioner David Black were both asked to resign. Still, as Black conformed to the request, Saul rejected it, reported by Associated Press via an anonymous White House source.
Both men were appointed to the position by Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump.
Following his rejection, Biden proceeded to terminate Saul’s employment, a determined legal move based on a June Supreme Court ruling favoring a U.S. president to extend his control over an independent agency.
“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,” the White House official said.
Saul, who would have continued his tenure as head of Social Security Administration until January 2025, dismissed Biden’s decision.
“I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” said Saul, as the Hill reported from the Post. He added that next Monday he would continue his job remotely.
“This was the first I or my deputy knew this was coming. It was a bolt of lightning no one expected. And right now it’s left the agency in complete turmoil,” Saul reacted, according to the White House source.
Beforehand, it was understood that Saul could only be removed if he neglects his duties or is found to have committed malfeasance. But in a case involving firing the Federal Housing Finance Agency director last year, a Supreme Court condemned that it was unconstitutional to bar a president from such power.
Saul’s removal was praised by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
“Every president should choose the personnel that will best carry out their vision for the country. To fulfill President Biden’s bold vision for improving and expanding Social Security, he needs his people in charge,” said Wyden. “I will work closely with the president to confirm a new commissioner as swiftly as possible to lead this critical agency.”
Likewise, multiple Republicans have chastised Biden’s decision, such as House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) who have issued a statement criticizing the act.
“We are concerned that this politicization of the Social Security Administration is just the beginning of efforts to raise payroll taxes and seriously undermines bipartisan efforts to save Social Security for future retirees,” they said.
Meanwhile, Biden has appointed Kilolo Kijakazi to be SSA’s acting commissioner, said Federal News Network.
Kijakazi has been working for the SSA as deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy after leaving the Urban Institute.