President Joe Biden recently fired the commissioner of the Social Security Administration Andrew Saul after he refused to resign Friday. Saul described his dismissal as a “Friday Night Massacre,” and said he and his deputy did not know this was coming.
Biden appointed Kilolo Kijakazi to serve as the acting commissioner for David Black, Saul’s deputy who agreed to resign until he appoints a replacement. Kijakazi currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at the Social Security Administration.
Saul said it was a “bolt of lightning no one expected” and that it has left the agency in complete turmoil. Saul had been nominated by former President Donald Trump to lead the agency in a bipartisan vote for a six-year term ending in January 2025. He said he considers his job term-protected until then.
Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Justice Department said Saul could be removed at will and that he has “undermined and politicized” Social Security benefits and has terminated the telework policy that was utilized by 25% of the agency’s workforce. They said he didn’t repair the SSA relationships with relevant federal employee unions and that he took actions that ran “contrary to the mission of the agency and the President’s policy agenda.”
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo called the decision “disappointing” and said that Social Security beneficiaries stand the most to lose from Biden’s partisan decision. Sen. Chuck Grassley also slammed Biden’s decision, noting that both Saul and Deputy Commissioner David Black were confirmed and protected 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. People don’t want their retirement and benefits politicized, they just want an agency that works. We had that under Commissioner Saul,” Grassley said.
Saul said he had a “tumultuous” relationship with Biden and often clashed with the unions. But now he’s challenging the legality of Biden’s decision to fire him, adding that he plans to be back at work on Monday morning.
Democrats have demonized Saul over the past two years as a person who is trying to make it difficult for those to get disability benefits and delay economic stimulus checks when he was modernizing its operation. He provided a smooth benefit and service delivery during the largest management challenge ever faced by the industry and continues to save Social Security for future retirees.
While some critics said that every president should choose the person who will best carry out their vision, lawmakers argued that Saul’s term was set to end in January 2025. Grassley said that the sudden request of resignation is the beginning of politicizing the Social Security Administration and raising payroll taxes that will undermine hardworking Americans.