Jul 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden fires Trump-era Social Security commissioner

Andrew Saul testifies before a Senate committee in October 2018.
Andrew Saul testifies before a Senate committee in October 2018. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden dismissed Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul on Friday after he refused a request to resign, the Washington Post first reported.

Why it matters: Saul, who was nominated to the position by former President Trump in 2018, had a chaotic first six months in the Biden administration, during which advocates for the elderly and the disabled urged the White House to terminate him over his anti-union stances and policies designed to restrict benefits.

The big picture: The White House said the recent Supreme Court case that enabled Biden to fire the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency also gave him the power to fire Saul, whose term was supposed to last until January 2025.

  • Saul disputed his firing in an interview with the Post and said he would not leave his position because he believes the White House lacked legality to oust him.
  • The Social Security Administration is an independent agency whose leadership does not change with a new administration, though the Social Security Act allows incoming presidents to fire the commissioner for cause.

What they're saying: “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," the White House said in a statement, according to the Post.

  • The Biden administration added that Saul had "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 other side: “I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” Saul told the Post, adding he would show up to work on Monday.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a tweet called Saul's firing "an unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the Social Security Administration."

David Black, Saul's deputy who was also appointed by Trump, resigned Friday upon request.

  • Biden tapped Kilolo Kijakazi, the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to serve as acting commissioner until a nominee is selected.
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