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Johnson Opening Statement at Hearing on Challenges Facing SSA After More Than 5 Years of Acting Commissioners

March 07, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee hearing entitled “Lacking a Leader: Challenges Facing the SSA After Over 5 Years of Acting Commissioners.”

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on the need for Social Security to have a Senate-confirmed Commissioner.

“Americans count on Social Security to provide important benefits.  In fact, Social Security pays benefits to more than 60 million people a year, totaling nearly 1 trillion dollars.  It is the largest single program in the federal budget, responsible for a quarter of all federal spending. 

“When Social Security became an independent agency in 1995, Congress created the position of Social Security Commissioner to run the agency.  This position has a fixed 6 year term that must be Senate-confirmed, just like Department Secretaries and other high-level federal agency heads.   

“But Social Security has been without a Senate-confirmed Commissioner since the most recent term expired on January 19, 2013.  That’s more than five years!   

“This is the largest single period of vacancy for the head of a Department or major federal agency since the SSA became independent. 

“That’s just not right. 

“Not only has Social Security been led by Acting Commissioners, but for over three years, we haven’t even had a nominee for the Senate to consider.  The President needs to nominate a Commissioner without further delay.  And once he does, the Senate should move quickly because the American people have waited too long.   

“Yesterday, GAO announced the Social Security Administration is in violation of the Vacancy Reform Act.  Without objection, the opinion will be made a part of the record.

“This is a big deal and a reminder that Social Security needs a nominee NOW.

“Acting Commissioners can keep an agency on a course that’s already set, but they don’t have the same authority to lead as a Senate-confirmed Commissioner.  As you’ll hear today, an Acting Commissioner just isn’t empowered to make strategic decisions regarding the long-term operation of the agency.

“The SSA needs the strong and consistent leadership of a Senate-confirmed Commissioner to keep the agency focused on providing the service Americans expect, need, and deserve.  We are now more than five years into a six-year term.  The American people can’t afford to wait any longer. 

“Mr. President, we need you to nominate a Commissioner and NOW.

“I want to thank our witnesses for being here today, and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

“I now recognize Mr. Larson for his opening statement.”