President Joe Biden has fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, who had been appointed by former President Donald Trump, after he refused to resign. But Saul isn’t going out without a fight and insists he will still sign in to work on Monday morning remotely from his New York home. “I consider myself the term-protected commissioner of Social Security,” Saul told the Washington Post, characterizing his firing as a “Friday Night Massacre.”
Biden had asked on Friday morning for the resignation of both Saul and David Black, the deputy commissioner. Black resigned, but Saul refused. Biden appointed Kilolo Kijakazi, currently the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to lead the agency.
The Social Security Administration is an independent agency and the commissioner has a six-year term that doesn’t usually change when a new president moves into the White House. Saul’s term was scheduled to end on Jan. 19, 2025. But Democrats, as well as advocates for the elderly and the disabled, had been pushing Biden to get rid of Saul since day one in part due to his staunch, anti-union stance. He was also accused of delaying stimulus checks and attempting to limit disability benefits. In Mach, three Democratic lawmakers called for Saul to be fired, citing his “aggressive anti-union activities” and accusing him of pursuing “a range of anti-beneficiary and anti-employee policies.”
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Saul had “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 said in a statement.
Saul’s firing marks the latest instance of Biden seeking to remove a Trump-appointed head of an independent agency that have historically stayed on from the previous administration. Last month, Biden fired the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency after the Supreme Court ruled he had the authority to do so. Saul said he was “very upset” by his dismissal that he said came without warning. Some Republicans immediately blasted the move. “This removal would be an unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the Social Security Administration,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.