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Social Security Chief Wouldn't Step Down. Biden Fired Him

SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul refused to resign, per WH official
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 10, 2021 5:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Joe Biden on Friday fired the commissioner of Social Security after the official refused to resign, and Biden accepted the deputy commissioner's resignation, the White House said. Biden asked commissioner Andrew Saul to resign, and his employment was terminated after he refused the Democratic president's request, a White House official said. Deputy Commissioner David Black agreed to resign, said the official, per the AP. Both officials had been put in place under President Trump, a Republican. Biden named Kilolo Kijakazi as acting commissioner while the administration conducts a search for a permanent commissioner and deputy commissioner. Kijakazi currently is the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy at the Social Security Administration. Saul's removal followed a Justice Department legal opinion that found he could be removed, despite a statute that says he could only be fired for neglecting his duties or malfeasance.

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The opinion—researched at the request of the White House—concluded that a reevaluation because of a recent Supreme Court ruling meant that Saul could be fired by the president at will. Biden’s move got immediate support from the Democratic senator who would be in charge of confirming a successor to Saul. GOP lawmakers accused Biden of politicizing the agency and pointed to Saul's confirmation by a bipartisan 77-16 Senate vote in 2019. His six-year term would have expired in January 2025. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the personnel move an "unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the [SSA]." But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement that "every president should choose the personnel that will best carry out their vision for the country." He added: "To fulfill President Biden's bold vision for improving and expanding Social Security, he needs his people in charge."

(Read more Social Security stories.)

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