After President Joe Biden kicked off his White House tenure Wednesday by sacking several corrupt and incompetent holdovers from the Trump administration—including labor board attorney Peter Robb and CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger—progressives are urging the newly inaugurated president to keep the firing spree going by terminating his predecessor's right-wing appointees at the Social Security Administration.
"Our message for the Biden administration is that some personnel changes below the commissioner level aren't good enough—we need change at the top of SSA, and that means removing Saul and Black."
—Linda Benesch, Social Security Works
"Donald Trump's cronies at the Social Security Administration are undermining our Social Security system—including underpaying tens of thousands of beneficiaries," advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted Thursday morning. "President Joe Biden needs to clean house at the Social Security Administration immediately!"
Linda Benesch, communications director at Social Security Works, told Common Dreams Thursday that while SSA's Deputy Commissioner of Retirement and Disability Policy Mark Warshawsky—a longtime proponent of even stricter eligibility requirements for disability benefits—has resigned, SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul and Deputy Commissioner David Black remain in their posts. On Wednesday, the Biden White House included Saul on a list of acting officials who will lead federal agencies as the president's nominees are confirmed.
"It is unclear what the Biden administration means by listing Saul as an acting commissioner, but we will fight to make sure it means he is on his way out the door," said Benesch. "Our message for the Biden administration is that some personnel changes below the commissioner level aren't good enough—we need change at the top of SSA, and that means removing Saul and Black."
Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, echoed that message, saying in an emailed statement that "the only thing that is acceptable at the Social Security Administration is a new commissioner and a new deputy commissioner who believe in the system, the movement won't accept anything less."
Donald Trump’s cronies at the Social Security Administration are undermining our Social Security system—including underpaying tens of thousands of beneficiaries.
President @JoeBiden needs to clean house at the Social Security Administration immediately!
— SocialSecurityWorks (@SSWorks) January 21, 2021
Ahead of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' inauguration, Social Security Works led a coalition of progressive organizations in demanding that the new administration remove Saul, Black, and Warshawsky immediately upon taking office and reverse their destructive attacks on the beloved New Deal program.
Pointing to a series of policy changes Trump's SSA attempted to ram through during the former president's final days in power—including a regulation that, if implemented, would deny benefits to hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities—the progressive coalition said it is "critical that the Biden-Harris administration immediately undo these rules when they take office, and demand the resignations of Trump's Social Security appointees."
While current law states that the SSA commissioner "may be removed from office only pursuant to a finding by the president of neglect of duty or malfeasance in office," Social Security Works argued in a November report (pdf) that if Saul refuses to resign, Biden "should remove him nevertheless, citing as the power to do so the recent Supreme Court case, Seila Law LLC vs Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
In that case, the high court ruled last June that the CFPB's structure was unconstitutional because it protected the agency's director from at-will termination by the president—a protection that the Supreme Court's conservative majority deemed a violation of the separation of powers.
As Slate's Mark Joseph Stern noted Wednesday, "Kraninger supported that decision, which paved the way for her termination on Wednesday. Had the court upheld the [CFPB]'s independence, Kraninger could have remained in office through the end of 2023."
Social Security Works said in its report that Biden "should give Commissioner Andrew Saul the choice to resign or be fired and require all other SSA political Schedule C appointees, including Deputy Commissioner David Black, to vacate their offices."
In a tweet late Wednesday, Lawson applauded Biden's termination of Robb and urged the president to "clean house of every last Trumpist in government."
"Next stop, Social Security Administration," Lawson wrote.