WASHINGTON -- In a stinging rebuke that further sours the Social Security Administration's relations with Congress, the chairman of a key House subcommittee has demanded that the agency's commissioner, Shirley S. Chater, resign.
"It is time for you to go," Rep. Jim Bunning, chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee, said in a letter to Ms. Chater Tuesday night. He accused her of using "scurrilous, huckster tactics for political profit" as she "slashed and trashed the Republican efforts to reform the Medicare program."
Saying she had no intention of quitting, Ms. Chater wrote back yesterday, "I will not be silenced by those who don't want to hear the facts."
She pointed out that Congress last year made her a trustee of the Medicare system, giving her an obligation to speak out. In the past month, she has publicly joined Democrats in criticizing the Republican plan in Washington and in Houston.
Mr. Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, said Ms. Chater's comments had undermined the efforts of Congress last year to insulate Social Security from politics by making it an independent agency. That move gave the commissioner a six-year term and made it difficult for a president to fire her.
President Clinton early this year reappointed Ms. Chater to head the newly independent agency, but Senate Republicans have bottled up the nomination in the Finance Committee for eight months.
Without that confirmation, Ms. Chater serves at the pleasure of the president and could easily be replaced if a Republican wins the White House next year.