Senate approves two reappointments to Postal Regulatory Commission
By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
Before going home for the Christmas holidays, the Senate once again reaffirmed its belief that the United States Postal Service needs to be regulated.
It did that by approving President Barrack Obama’s renominations of two Republicans to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the body that is charged with overseeing the USPS.
The reappointments of commissioners Robert G. Taub and Mark Acton were not surprising.
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President Obama made Taub the PRC chairman, removing the “acting chairman” title he gave Taub two years ago.
What the Senate noticeably ignored in endorsing the PRC appointments were Obama’s long-stalled nominations to the Postal Service’s board of governors.
Thanks to objections from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., there are now no presidential nominees on what is supposed to be a panel of nine presidentially appointed members.
The action on the regulators and the inaction on the governors speaks to what postmasters general don’t like to concede: Congress might be happier regulating the Postal Service with a board of full-time commissioners than with a board of nine part-time appointees.
After all, the Postal Regulatory Commission is a creature of Congress.
The PRC and its predecessor, the Postal Rate Commission, were formed in response to the mailing industry’s objections to allowing the USPS to set stamp prices on its own.
The Senate’s repeated failures to respond to the pleas of postal officials for the Postal Service’s own board will hand President-elect Donald Trump the question of how to manage the USPS, one of the largest organizations in the federal bureaucracy.
He has not addressed how he wants to manage either the Postal Service or its growing multi-billion dollar deficits.
To the public Trump’s biggest link to any postal issue might have been his agreement to transform an old post office building in downtown Washington, D.C., into a luxury hotel.
But that agreement is with the General Services Administration — not the USPS — which does not have a say in the hotel project.
During his campaign, Trump did suggest that postal officials were attempting to sabotage his race in Colorado by throwing away mailed-in ballots.
A postal worker in Ohio was reported to have bragged on Twitter that he destroyed mail ballots, but that report was discredited by postal officials and other media.
So where does Trump stand on postal issues?
Will he advocate eliminating the board of governors and leaving oversight to the regulatory commission and Congress?
Will he seek to rein in government employee unions, such as the ones representing postal workers?
Postal unions opposed to his election said they feared his views on wages and organized labor might hurt their members.
Trump did promise to impose a freeze on hiring new federal workers, saying he would likely exempt military and law enforcement.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence has a record of supporting a smaller federal payroll while a member of Congress.
Of course, Trump could do what most recent presidents have done: ignore the Postal Service’s pleas for financial aid.
If the USPS is going to press its plans for a large fleet of custom-made delivery trucks, it will need some direct financial help from Congress and the new president.
First-class mail, long the USPS’s main revenue source, is expected to continue to slip, decreasing the likelihood of self-financing the much-needed trucks.
Also, the Postal Service doesn’t seem likely to make the huge payments required by a 2006 law to pre-fund the projected costs of medical benefits for its retirees.
President Obama opted to look the other way while the USPS piled up billions in unpaid healthcare costs.
President-elect Trump could do the same, but the need for new delivery vehicles will likely force him to act.
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