Sean Reilly at the Federal Times takes note of former Commissioner Astrue's remark that he wouldn't "miss having everything I say being cleared by a 28-year-old at OMB" [Office of Management and Budget, part of the White House]. Reilly asked OMB for comment. OMB didn't deny what Astrue said.
Why did Astrue consent to this? The statute says that Social Security Commissioners are independent. There was no direct way of forcing Astrue to clear his remarks. If anything, this is inconsistent with Social Security being an independent agency. My guess is that during the transition after the 2008 election Astrue made the commitment to not speak without OMB clearance. Is OMB so powerful that the job of Commissioner would have been untenable in the face of OMB hostility? Was there a threat to reorganize Astrue out of a job if he didn't agree to be a team member? How much independence did Astrue have in other ways? He had to clear new regulations through OMB, of course, but what about Rulings? What about major contracts? Maybe we'll get answers to these questions some day.
And one more question, does Social Security as an independent agency really make sense?