President Joe Biden has tapped Martin O’Malley, former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor, to head the Social Security Administration.

If confirmed by the Senate, O’Malley would oversee around 60,000 administration employees at the Woodlawn headquarters. The agency administers federal retirement, disability and family benefits programs and enrolls people in Medicare health coverage.

O’Malley, 60, was elected Maryland’s governor in 2007 and served two terms before launching a presidential bid in 2015. He dropped out of the primaries in 2016 after garnering less than 1% of support in the Iowa caucuses. Before that, he was elected to two terms as mayor of Baltimore.

O’Malley, a Democrat, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.

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“He adopted data and performance-driven technologies to tackle complex challenges facing the communities he served — and I saw the results firsthand when we worked together during my time as Vice President,” Biden said in a statement announcing the pick.

As Maryland governor, Biden said O’Malley “made government work more effectively across his administration and enhanced the way millions of people accessed critical services.”

O’Malley “is a lifelong public servant who has spent his career making government more accessible and transparent, while keeping the American people at the heart of his work,” Biden said.

O’Malley would inherit a department in desperate straits. According to the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees report released in March, the program’s trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in about 10 years.

If the fund is depleted, the government will be able to pay only 80% of scheduled benefits, the report said.

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The agency has been led by Kilolo Kijakazi in an interim role since 2021 when Biden fired Andrew Saul, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin said that the 66 million people who receive some form of Social Security benefit should be “reassured” by O’Malley’s nomination.

“Social Security is a critical insurance policy that tens of millions of working Americans pay into every year so that benefits can be there when they are older, disabled or leave young children after death,” Cardin said in a statement.

The outgoing Democrat also plugged O’Malley 2019 book: “He’s literally written the book on ‘Smarter Government.’”

Cardin said he’s confident O’Malley, who has historically won support from labor unions, “will lead SSA with respect and support for its strong union workforce,” and that his confirmation by the Senate “will be swift.”

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U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a veteran Democrat from Baltimore who represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, added on praise, saying O’Malley’s focus on improving government services has been a “hallmark” of the former governor’s tenure in office.

“I commend President Biden on this very important nomination,” he said in a statement.

Former Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp, also a Democrat, praised Biden’s pick, saying she’s seen her former colleague on the state spending board make tough budgetary choices while preserving critical resources for the state’s most vulnerable.

“I think that it makes a whole lot of sense from a number of directions — both O’Malley’s commitment to public service and to especially those in need,” she said.

Social Security is financed by payroll taxes collected from workers and their employers. The maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll taxes for 2023 is $160,200, up from $147,000 in 2022.

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Last October, the agency announced that Social Security recipients would get an 8.7% boost in their benefits in 2023, a historic increase prompted by record-high inflation.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

This story has been updated to correct that Ben Cardin serves in the U.S. Senate.

Taylor DeVille covered Baltimore County government for The Baltimore Banner with a focus on the County Executive, County Council, accountability and quality of life issues affecting suburban residents. Before joining The Banner, Taylor covered Baltimore County government and breaking news for The Baltimore Sun.

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