LOOSE ENDS-President Biden on Friday fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, after Saul refused a request to resign.
Saul's deputy, David Black, who was also appointed by former president Donald Trump, resigned Friday upon request.
Saul, 74, a wealthy businessman who owned the now-bankrupt women’s apparel company Caché, is a major Republican donor and Trump supporter.
House Democrats and progressive activists have been calling on President Biden to fire Saul for months, accusing Saul of slow-walking the Biden administration's effort to distribute direct coronavirus relief payments to tens of millions of seniors and people with disabilities.
Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works said:
“Today is a great day for every current and future Social Security beneficiary.
Andrew Saul and David Black were appointed by former President Donald Trump to undermine Social Security. They’ve done their very best to carry out that despicable mission. That includes waging a war on people with disabilities, demoralizing the agency’s workforce, and delaying President Biden’s stimulus checks.
Biden named Kilolo Kijakazi, the current deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to serve as acting commissioner until a permanent nominee is selected.
The White House said:
“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, 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."
Saul told the Washington Post Friday afternoon that he would not leave his post, challenging the legality of the White House move to oust him. “I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” he said, adding that he plans to be back at work on Monday morning. He called his ouster a “Friday Night Massacre.”
“This was the first I or my deputy knew this was coming,” Saul said of the email he received from the White House Personnel Office Friday morning. “It was a bolt of lightning no one expected. And right now it’s left the agency in complete turmoil.”
Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans said in a late Friday statement:
“Andrew Saul was a disaster for seniors and all Social Security beneficiaries. From day one he was on a mission to gut the Social Security system from the inside. Thank you President Biden for taking decisive action.
“The millions of Americans of all ages who rely or will rely on earned Social Security benefits deserve a Social Security Commissioner who understands and supports the agency’s mission."
(This story on CityWatch first appeared on commondreams.org)