December 18,2023

Wyden Floor Statement In Support of Martin O’Malley to be Social Security Commissioner

Watch a video of Wyden’s Senate Floor remarks here

As Prepared for Delivery

Madam President, I rise to support the nomination of Martin O’Malley to be the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. 

Americans may see the job title of “Social Security Commissioner” and ask themselves, “what does the commissioner do? I paid into Social Security for decades while I worked, and now I’m getting my earned benefits in retirement. What else is there to do?”

Madam President, the job of the Social Security Commissioner is to do right by the more than 60 million Americans who count on Social Security. To do right no matter whether you get Social Security due to old age, a disability, or loss of a loved one. A big portion of Americans who receive Social Security benefits are already walking on an economic tightrope. The average amount for retirement benefits is $1,847 - less than the median monthly rent nationwide.

These Americans have a right to a dignified retirement.

What that means, Madam President, is that no matter who you are, what job you did for a living, your earned benefits are being delivered on-time, accurately, and with speedy customer service to resolve any errors. 

There have been far too many reports of overpayments and clawbacks, customer service shortfalls, technology woes, and other problems that have made it harder for Americans to get their earned benefits.

Throughout his nomination process, Martin O’Malley has made it clear that his number one priority will be improving customer service for the millions of seniors and Americans with disabilities who count on Social Security.

Not politics. Service. 

Throughout his career in public service, Martin O’Malley established an unimpeachable record of modernization and increased transparency squarely focused on helping Marylanders get the services they count on. He understands better than most that there is no Republican or Democrat way to fill a pothole or improve customer service. The Finance Committee heard from Senators Mikulski and Cardin that service, transparency and accountability are in his DNA.

Martin O’Malley’s proven leadership will be needed in the days ahead. Americans pay into Social Security out of every paycheck, and they expect it to be there for them, no ifs, ands or buts. That means fixing some of the pressing issues dogging the agency.

For the millions of Americans who live on fixed incomes, any change in benefits can have a substantial impact on their daily lives. Getting a letter from Social Security saying you owe tens of thousands of dollars through no fault of your own is life-altering, and it's wrong. A mistaken overpayment can be the difference between making rent, having electricity or heating in your home, or buying groceries when your benefits are later cut to make up the difference.

As I said at the Finance Committee’s bipartisan vote supporting the nominee, I am going to be watchdogging the agency vigorously until it is fixed. 

I believe Martin O’Malley is the right person for the job at the right time. I will support his nomination and I encourage all my colleagues to support him as well.