Trump-appointed head of Social Security Administration vows to fight back after Biden fires him


Andrew Saul, the Social Security Administration commissioner who was fired by President Joe Biden on Friday, has vowed to fight his termination, claiming Biden does not have sufficient authority to fire him.

What happened?

Biden fired Saul, who was appointed in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump, after he refused to resign. Saul's deputy, however, David Black, another Trump-appointee, resigned upon request.

Saul was previously tasked with helping lead the government while Biden's Cabinet completed the Senate confirmation process.

Democrats and disability advocates had been pressuring Biden to fire Saul. Democrats were reportedly angry over Saul's anti-union ideas, while disability advocates blamed Saul for allegedly delaying COVID-related stimulus check payments to Social Security disability beneficiaries.

The White House, in fact, claimed Saul “undermined and politicized” aspects of the SSA:

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.

What was Saul's response?

Saul told the Washington Post that he plans to challenge his ouster, revealing plans to return to work Monday morning by signing in remotely from his home in New York.

Characterizing his termination as a “Friday Night Massacre,” Saul said, “I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security.”

And Saul has a point, according to the Post, “As the head of an independent agency whose leadership does not normally change with a new administration, Saul's six-year term was supposed to last until January 2025.”

Saul explained he did not know the White House was itching to fire him, and only learned of Biden's demand Friday morning when he received an email from the White House Personnel Office.

“This was the first I or my deputy knew this was coming,” Saul told the Post. “It was a bolt of lightning no one expected. And right now it's left the agency in complete turmoil.”

Is the ouster legal?

The White House claimed firing Saul was legal, citing a recent Supreme Court decision that permitted Biden to remove Mark Calabria, another Trump appointee, as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Politico reported, “The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel signed off on Biden's move, concluding that two recent Supreme Court decisions including on Calabria indicate that Congress' effort to limit the president's dismissal power over the Social Security commissioner is unconstitutional. In another case last year, the court ruled that Congress could not limit the president's power to dismiss the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

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