House Democrats Join Chorus Calling for Changes at Social Security
The job security of the Trump-appointed administrator and deputy administrator of the Social Security Administration remains in doubt, as the Biden administration continues to oust holdover appointees elsewhere in the government.
A group of senior House Democrats last week joined colleagues in the Senate as well as labor and advocacy groups in calling for President Biden to oust the leaders of the Social Security Administration over their perceived hostility toward the agency’s mission and workforce.
Since Biden’s election, federal employee groups and progressive advocacy groups have urged the president to replace Social Security Administrator Andrew Saul and Deputy Administrator David Black. The two officials were appointed by former President Trump but continue to serve because their terms do not expire until 2025.
The groups have cited a number of anti-worker initiatives undertaken by Saul and Black, including the cancellation of telework for many agency employees, followed by belated efforts to restore the practice at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as efforts to undermine the independence of the agency’s administrative law judge corps, which oversees the approval of Social Security disability claims.
Last month, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy, called on the Biden administration to demand that Saul and Black resign and, if necessary, fire them.
Last week, key members of the House Ways and Means Committee followed suit, calling for Saul and Black’s “immediate removal.” In a joint statement, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John Larson, D-Conn., Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny Davis, D-Ill., and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said the Trump appointees harmed not only agency employees, but Americans who rely on Social Security.
“Andrew Saul has aggressively advanced a range of anti-beneficiary and anti-employee policies at the Social Security Administration that threaten grievous harm to vulnerable Americans,” they said. “Mr. Saul and his deputy, David Black, have pushed substantial cuts to Social Security. They have also engaged in aggressive anti-union activities and terminated telework for thousands of employees in the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Last month, the national leadership of two unions that represent workers at Social Security sent a letter to Biden reiterating their request that he replace Saul and Black. American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers National President Paul Shearon described the agency under their leadership as “one of the most anti-labor agencies in the entire federal government.”
“Your administration needs to look no further than SSA’s ‘hit the ground running’ approach in implementing former President Trump’s executive orders aimed at destroying federal collective bargaining rights and all but eliminating federal worker due process protections,” they wrote. “SSA implemented their union busting plan by intentionally bargaining in bad faith so that all bargaining impasses with their unions would land at the Federal Service Impasses Panel, a body made up of right-to-work and anti-government ideologues appointed by President Trump . . . As you might imagine, the Trump FSIP unilaterally imposed contracts on SSA unions that took the rug out from under our ability to represent our members.”
In the earliest days of the Biden administration, the president began ousting Trump holdovers that he deemed would impede his policy agenda, beginning with former National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb, who was fired on Jan. 20 after he refused to resign. Since then, Biden has also replaced the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and ousted all 10 members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel. Last week, he fired Equal Employment Opportunity Commission General Counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson after she refused to resign.