President Joe Biden sacked Trump-appointed Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul on Friday, citing his leadership over the agency.
However, Saul plans to report for work on Monday as he disputes the legality of Biden’s actions.
“I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” Saul told The Washington Post.
Biden initially asked Saul to resign his post as head of the agency tasked with the administration of retirement and disability benefits. According to a White House official, Saul was terminated on Friday after he refused to resign.
Deputy Social Security Commissioner David Black acquiesced when he received a similar request to resign.
Biden’s action to terminate Saul’s employment followed a legal opinion from the Justice Department that found he could be fired by Biden at will, despite a law in place that only allows his termination for malfeasance or neglect of duties.
“Since taking office, Commissioner Saul has undermined and politicized Social Security disability benefits,” said a White House official in a statement, “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.”
Biden selected Kilolo Kijakazi as acting commissioner until a permanent appointment is made. She is currently the Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at the Social Security Administration.
Republicans were outraged at Biden’s clearly political move.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa noted that both appointees were confirmed by “a wide, bipartisan margin in 2019.”
“Their terms didn’t expire until 2025, and there was no reasonable justification for these removals. President Biden is overtly politicizing the SSA,” Grassley said in a statement. “People don’t want their retirement and benefits politicized, they just want an agency that works. We had that under Commissioner Saul.”
In a joint statement from Senate Republicans, U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and U.S. House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said, “Social Security beneficiaries state the most to lose from President Biden’s partisan decision to remove Commissioner Andrew Saul from leadership of the Social Security Administration.”
They expressed their disappointment in Biden’s administration “injecting politics” into the agency, explaining that Saul has worked closely with both parties in Congress. “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.
Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, released a statement in support of Biden ousting the Trump appointees from the agency that was created in 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“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,” Wyden said. “I will work closely with the president to confirm a new commissioner as swiftly as possible to lead this critical agency.”
The terminations come on the heels of Biden calling for Puerto Rico residents to receive Social Security benefits last month despite his own administration arguing in Supreme Court that the Caribbean island territory’s residents are ineligible for the program.
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