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Biden fired the Trump-appointed Social Security head amid complaints of stimulus check delays and union-busting tactics

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Andrew Saul, Social Security Administration commissioner
New York businessman Andrew Saul testifies before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing to be commissioner of the Social Security Administration on October 02, 2018 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • The White House fired Andrew Saul, the Social Security head, on Friday evening.

  • Democrats and advocates charged the agency with gumming up stimulus checks for disabled people.

  • Democrats cheered the firings while Republicans said Biden was injecting politics into the agency.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

President Joe Biden fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and his top deputy on Friday afternoon, sparking a face-off as Saul says he doesn't intend to step down from his post.

Saul, a Trump appointee, had triggered fierce criticism from Democrats and advocates, who said he gummed up the speedy distribution of $1,400 stimulus checks to disabled Americans and applied union-busting tactics with labor unions representing federal employees.

The Washington Post first reported Saul, 74, was fired after refusing to step down. His deputy David Black turned in his resignation upon request, The Post reported.

Saul disputed the White House's ability to remove him. "I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security," he told The Post, adding he plans to sign in remotely and work on Monday.

His six-year tenure was supposed to end in 2025, and Social Security heads aren't typically switched out when a new administration takes power. But the White House appeared to draw from a recent Supreme Court ruling for the authority to replace him amid mounting calls from Democrats to replace him.

The White House did not immediately respond to comment. Biden moved to appoint Kilolo Kijakazi as acting commissioner until a permanent successor is installed.

Saul is a former GOP donor who served on the board of a conservative think-tank that advocated for cuts to Social Security benefits. Advocates said the Social Security Administration delayed releasing information to the IRS for stimulus checks earlier this year.

They also argued the SSA under Saul made it much more burdensome for disabled people to reestablish their eligibility for benefits.

Congressional Democrats and activists cheered Friday's firings. Alex Lawson, president of Social Security Works, told Insider it was "great news" Saul and Black are no longer in charge of the agency.

"They were put in place by former President Trump to sabotage Social Security and no one but Wall Street is sad to see them go," he said. "Their attacks on seniors and people with disabilities will be their shameful legacy."

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio also praised the move. The Banking committee chair said in a statement Saul "tried to systematically dismantle Social Security as we know it from within."

"Social Security is the bedrock of our middle class that Americans earn and count on, and they need a Social Security Commissioner who will honor that promise to seniors, survivors, and people with disabilities now and for decades to come," Brown said.

Congressional Republicans swung in the opposite direction. Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Mike Crapo, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, released a statement scolding the Biden administration for ousting Saul.

"Social Security beneficiaries stand the most to lose from President Biden's partisan decision to remove Commissioner Andrew Saul from leadership of the Social Security Administration," Brady and Crapo said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also weighed in earlier on the prospect of Saul's firing. He wrote on Twitter Saul's removal would be "an unprecedented and dangerous politicization of the Social Security Administration."

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The Social Security Administration is in charge of dispensing benefits for nearly 64 million seniors, disabled and low-income Americans, or one in six people in the US.

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