On The Money: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration | IRS scandals haunt Biden push for more funding
Happy Friday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.
THE BIG DEAL—Breaking News: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration: President Biden on Friday fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, a holdover from the Trump administration, after Saul refused a request to resign.
- A White House official confirmed that Saul’s employment was terminated. The move was first reported by The Washington Post.
- According to the Post, Saul, who was confirmed in 2019 by a 77-16 Senate vote to a six-year term at the helm of the Social Security Administration (SSA), argued that the White House did not have the power to remove him.
- David Black, Saul’s deputy who was also appointed to the position by former President Trump, resigned at Biden’s request, the White House official said.
Biden has named Kilolo Kijakazi, the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, as acting commissioner as he searches for a permanent replacement for the position. Biden’s nominee will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant has more here.
The backstory: Democrats have long complained about Saul’s tenure at SSA, and tensions peaked earlier this year over a delay in sending out stimulus checks to those on Social Security benefits and other programs administered by 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,” the White House official said.
- The White House’s move was bolstered by recent Supreme Court rulings and came a day after a Justice Department opinion concluded that the president “may remove the SSA Commissioner at will.”
- Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the single-director leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau violates the separation of powers and in June, the court ruled that the structure of the Federal Housing Finance Agency was unconstitutional.
House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) issued a statement criticizing the move as a “partisan decision.”
“We are concerned that this politicization of the Social Security Administration is just the beginning of efforts to raise payroll taxes and seriously undermines bipartisan efforts to save Social Security for future retirees,” they said.
LEADING THE DAY
IRS controversies of the present, past haunt lawmaker talks: IRS controversies from the Obama era and much more recently that have left Republicans even more disillusioned with the nation’s tax collecting army are emerging as a real problem for getting a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal done.
The IRS has long been a favorite boogeyman among conservative politicians who love to bash it, and Democrats might see it as a convenient target for GOP lawmakers who in their view do not want to back an infrastructure deal that if passed by Congress would be a significant victory for President Biden.
But there are also legitimately negative feelings among GOP senators and House members over the 2013 controversy when the IRS gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
The Hill’s Alexander Bolton explains here.
Biden calls for greater bank merger scrutiny, customer control of financial data: President Biden on Friday asked bank regulators to adopt tighter standards for approving mergers and allow customers to download their financial transaction data from banks.
- Biden signed Friday a sweeping executive order intended to boost competition within the U.S. economy.
- Biden’s order will ask the Justice Department, Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to write new, stricter guidelines for bank mergers.
- The order will also ask the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to write rules forcing banks to allow customers to obtain their transaction information.
I break it down here.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK
- The Senate Finance Committee votes on the nominations of Sarah Bianchi and Jayme Ray White to be deputy U.S. Trade Representatives at 9:45 a.m.
- The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Arun Venkataraman to be assistant Commerce secretary and Damon Smith to be general counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 10 a.m.
- A House Small Business subcommittee holds a hearing entitled “Rural American Recovery: The Role of Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship” at 1 p.m.
- Labor Secretary Marty Walsh testifies before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Department of Labor’s fiscal 2022 budget request at 10 a.m.
- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee at 12 p.m.
- A House Small Business subcommittee holds a hearing on innovation through the Small Business Administration at 1 p.m.
- A House Ways and Means subcommittee holds a hearing on expanding access to housing at 2 p.m.
- A Senate Finance subcommittee holds a hearing on investing in U.S. competitiveness at 2 p.m.
- The Joint Economic Committee holds a hearing on concentrated corporate power at 2:30 p.m.
- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies before the Senate Banking Committee at 9:30 a.m.
- The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on supply chain resilience at 10:30 a.m.
- A House Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on community development block grants and disaster recovery at 12 p.m.