Biden’s Social Security Pick Advances Towards Confirmation

The Senate Finance Committee last Tuesday voted to advance the nomination of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to serve as commissioner of the Social Security Administration, the Washington Times reported.

The committee approved O’Malley’s nomination in a 17 to 10 vote after outlining the challenges to SSA O’Malley will face, including bureaucratic red tape, long wait times, and a “beleaguered” workforce.

Republicans Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina joined their Democrat colleagues in supporting O’Malley’s nomination.

The Social Security Administration is responsible for processing and distributing retirement, disability, survivor, and family benefits. It also assigns Social Security numbers and handles Medicare enrollment.

In a recent confirmation hearing, O’Malley pledged to oversee the modernization of the Social Security Administration, describing the SSA’s current customer service and limited staff as “unacceptable.”

O’Malley served as governor of Maryland from 2007 until 2015. Before that, he served as the mayor of Baltimore for two terms. In 2016, O’Malley tried and failed to win the Democrat nomination for president against Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

During his confirmation hearing, O’Malley described himself as a technocrat who would focus on getting the SSA to streamline its services to reduce call times, speed up appeals, and ensure that Americans are receiving the benefits they were promised.

President Biden initially nominated O’Malley in July, touting the Maryland Democrat’s embrace of data-driven technology while governor.

The president fired former Social Security commissioner Andrew Saul in 2021 and Saul, a holdover from the Trump administration, refused to resign. Biden then appointed acting commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi before nominating O’Malley.

Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo had praised O’Malley for making customer service a top priority for the agency but said he could not support his nomination after the president fired Saul instead of allowing him to serve the full, 6-year term, arguing that it would set a bad precedent for future presidents.