President Joe Biden fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul on Friday despite objections of Republicans and the Trump appointee himself.
Saul, who called his firing a “Fright Night Massacre,” was terminated from the role after refusing a request to resign earlier in the day, a White House official confirmed to the Washington Examiner. His profile already appears to have been removed from the SSA website.
David Black, Saul’s deputy, agreed to resign, while Kilolo Kijakazi, the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, will serve as acting head until Biden picks a nominee who is confirmed by the Senate, the White House official added.
Democrats pressured the White House to fire the Trump administration holdover, who was accused by critics of making it difficult for people to get disability benefits, delaying economic stimulus checks, and undermining workers’ rights over the past two years as Saul and his supporters insisted the SSA was modernizing its operations.
“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% 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.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle sounded off on Friday.
“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 Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee overseeing the Maryland-based Social Security Administration, in a statement. “I will work closely with the president to confirm a new commissioner as swiftly as possible to lead this critical agency.”
Top Republican lawmakers argued that firing Saul, whose term was set to end in January 2025, amounts to political reprisal.
“This removal would be an unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the Social Security Administration,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a tweet.
“Social Security beneficiaries stand the most to lose from President Biden’s partisan decision to remove Commissioner Andrew Saul from leadership of the Social Security Administration,” said House Ways and Means Republican leader Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo in a joint statement.
“It is disappointing that the Administration is injecting politics into the agency, given that Commissioner Saul was confirmed with bipartisan approval, worked closely with both parties in Congress, and provided smooth benefit and service delivery during the largest management challenge ever faced by the agency,” the House Republican duo added. “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.”
Saul, a 74-year-old businessman with government experience, took on the commissioner role in 2019.
The Social Security Act states a commissioner “may be removed from office only pursuant to a finding by the President of neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”
But Saul, who reportedly touted his efforts to modernize SSA’s operations and technology systems, told the Washington Post he disputes the legality of the White House decision to boot him from office, calling himself “term-protected,” and plans to return to work on Monday.
“It was a bolt of lightning no one expected. And right now, it’s left the agency in complete turmoil,” he added.
The Washington Examiner reached out to the White House for comment.