The Behind-The-Scenes Campaign For The Next Social Security Commissioner

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An aide to President Joe Biden on labor points is among the many high contenders to steer the Social Safety Administration, although he faces competitors from a longtime knowledgeable on the company and a high-profile former member of Congress. 

Seth Harris, a former deputy labor secretary who’s now a member of the Nationwide Financial Council, is without doubt one of the main contenders for the publish, in accordance with a number of sources, alongside former Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), who was secretary of well being and human companies within the Clinton administration; and Social Safety Works President Nancy Altman. All three have engaged in a behind-the-scenes lobbying marketing campaign to win help from members of Congress and unions. 

The highest publish on the company overseeing the nation’s largest security web program is open after Biden determined to fireplace Andrew Saul, President Donald Trump’s appointee, earlier this summer time. Sources cautioned that the method is simply starting and different contenders for the publish might emerge. 

The Social Safety Administration is an enormous company, and the commissioner place issues each for its position main an enormous workforce and for the accountability for the tens of tens of millions of People who obtain month-to-month retirement and incapacity advantages. Below Saul, the company pursued incapacity profit cuts and battled with the unions representing its employees. 

The one public endorsement within the contest to succeed Saul thus far has come from the Nationwide Group for Ladies, which backed Altman earlier this month. 

“The very best ‘man’ for the job and the perfect choose general to move up the Social Safety Administration is a lady, and that girl is Nancy Altman,” NOW President Christian Nunes mentioned in a press release. 

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who chairs a key subcommittee overseeing Social Safety within the Home, has additionally quietly weighed in with a letter to Biden backing Altman. 

“​​She acknowledges that her high precedence will probably be to ship the first-class service the general public deserves and certainly, has paid for and used to obtain. She is dedicated to restoring the morale of the workforce and restoring the boldness of the American folks in the way forward for Social Safety,” Larson wrote in a letter to the president obtained by HuffPost. “Most essential to me, she is dedicated to growing the financial safety of the American folks.”

As president of Social Safety Works, Altman advocated in opposition to retirement advantages cuts that President Barack Obama had supported as a part of a phantom “Grand Cut price” with Republicans. Obama ultimately got here round to Altman’s place ― one of many early indicators that Democrats would as soon as once more embrace their New Deal roots. (Social Safety Works additionally vigorously advocated for Biden to fireplace Saul.)

Harris, against this, has no apparent background in Social Safety. However his deep authorities expertise and clout within the White Home ― in addition to with key unions ― makes him a contender for the job. 

Harris spent years on the Labor Division earlier than rising to deputy labor secretary in 2009. His work finishing up the Obama administration’s insurance policies on office security, wage theft and different labor points drew loads of reward from the left. The Financial Coverage Institute wrote relating to Harris’s breadth of expertise that it was “unlikely that anybody so educated will ever serve” on the company once more.

Harris, nevertheless, has fallen out of favor with some progressives since then. After leaving the Obama administration, he did a stint at Dentons, a management-side regulation agency, the place he was counsel on labor, public coverage and regulation, and he had his personal agency, Seth Harris Legislation & Coverage, the place he provided purchasers “strategic advising.”

Harris additionally drew criticism for a 2015 paper that he co-wrote with economist Alan Kreuger on the classification of gig employees as “unbiased contractors” somewhat than staff. Harris and Kreuger proposed the creation of a 3rd class, the “unbiased employee,” which might entitle gig employees to some conventional labor protections however not others. Critics seen the proposal as an pointless concession to the likes of Uber and Lyft.

Harris nonetheless has admirers in labor circles, nevertheless. In the course of the Biden transition, he was rumored to be a candidate for labor secretary, a publish that finally went to former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Bloomberg Legislation reported that former AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who died earlier this month, had backed Harris for the labor advisor job he finally landed on the White Home.

Shalala clearly has the biggest political profile of the contenders. The longtime college administrator headed the Division of Well being and Human Companies through the Invoice Clinton administration from 1993 to 2001 and served a single time period in Congress representing a district in South Florida earlier than dropping in 2020. 

Altman is the clear coverage knowledgeable among the many main decisions: She is a protégè of previous Social Safety Commissioner Robert Ball, plus she’s the creator of a number of books about this system and is a present member of the Social Safety advisory board. 

However the unions whose endorsements will probably be key to the White Home’s resolution aren’t essentially centered on coverage points such because the annual inflation adjustment for retirement advantages. 

Ralph de Juliis, president of AFGE’s Council 220, which represents many Social Safety employees, mentioned the union’s priorities are renegotiating its contract and sustaining some type of telework privileges that Saul had curtailed earlier than the pandemic, although he himself hardly ever got here to the workplace. De Juliis additionally needs the following commissioner to fireplace extra holdovers from the earlier administration. 

De Juliis mentioned he had a cellphone name with Shalala earlier this month and personally favors her, although he mentioned the union hasn’t but determined whether or not to make an endorsement. 

“She has expertise working HHS,” de Juliis mentioned. “She needed to cope with embedded political appointees from the final administration.”

Altman declined to remark. Neither Harris nor Shalala responded to a request for remark. 

Two sources additionally mentioned James Roosevelt Jr., a descendant of Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Democratic Nationwide Committee official, can be a contender for the job, although he’s seen as having much less of an opportunity than the opposite potential appointees.

In an electronic mail, Roosevelt ― who labored as an assistant commissioner of the Social Safety Administration within the Clinton administration ― confirmed his curiosity, saying he can be “honored” if Biden chosen him.

Correction: This story initially mentioned Trumka backed Harris for labor secretary. Actually, he backed him for labor advisor on the White Home.



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