Last month, during a wave of important decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Collins v. Yellen on June 23. This holding, which is summarized below, led the Biden administration to conclude that it had a constitutional right to oust the then-commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), Andrew Saul—a holdover from the Trump administration—and wasted no time in exercising this authority.
Specifically, on July 9, after refusing a White House officials’ request that he immediately resign, President Biden fired Commissioner Saul. A similar request had been made of Saul’s deputy commissioner, David Black, who agreed to resign when asked. Biden swiftly named Kilolo Kijakazi, the current deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to serve as acting SSA commissioner, and, as any good employer would do, proceeded to cut off Saul’s remote access to SSA’s computer system, as part of its employment “off-boarding” process. Saul has called the firing an improper “Friday Night Massacre,” arguing instead that he’s the “term-protected commissioner of Social Security,” whose six-year appointment would have otherwise outlasted Biden’s four-year term of office and wrap up in January 2025.