DeJoy gets friendlier reception before House committee; Biden nominates three to USPS board of governors
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy got a friendlier reception from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform on his second visit, but whether Democrats and Republicans can agree on a bipartisan bill to rescue the financially troubled United States Postal Service was left untested by the five-hour hearing.
While the Feb. 24 session lacked the outright anger toward DeJoy that surfaced during his Aug. 24, 2020, appearance, it did include several sharp partisan exchanges as Republicans sparred with Democrats over steps DeJoy took after becoming postmaster general.
Democrats blamed removal of processing machines and cutting back on mail delivery time and overtime pay as part of an effort to disrupt mail-in balloting during the Nov. 3 presidential election. DeJoy has denied those charges and has pointed to USPS statements that virtually all mail-in ballots were quickly delivered.
“We need to pass meaningful reforms — and hopefully bipartisan reforms — to put the Postal Service on a more sustainable financial footing for years to come,” said House Committee on Oversight and Reform chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., as she opened the hearing.
The panel’s ranking Republican, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., agreed to work toward that goal, but accused Democrats of spreading “false information” about DeJoy.
Asked how long he would remain head of the Postal Service, DeJoy said, “A long time. Get used to it.”
The issue before the panel was supposed to be a proposed bipartisan legislation bill that would grant the USPS relief from a 2006 law that forces it to pay in advance the expected health care costs of its current and future workers.
DeJoy and Ron Bloom, chairman of the Postal Service’s board of governors, told the hearing they endorsed key provisions of the proposed bill, eliminating the health care prepayment provision and making postal retirees use Medicare as their primary health insurance.
With that and the provisions of a 10-year plan that is still under wraps, DeJoy said he could see the agency moving to better times.
“In the weeks ahead, I look forward to sharing more information and engaging in discussions about this strategy with public policymakers, our unions and management associations, our employees, our stakeholders, and with the American people,” DeJoy said.
But if the bill fails, as have previous USPS rescue measures, the postmaster general said he could see “no path” forward for the USPS.
DeJoy acknowledged that the on-time delivery rate of letters had fallen in recent months, but said his new plan would mark a turnaround.
“The status quo is acceptable to no one,” he said.
A key provision in the draft legislation would require the Postal Service to set standards for mail delivery and require the agency to report publicly how it meets those standards.
DeJoy turned aside questions about the reported drop in delivery times, saying the agency’s current service standards were unrealistic and had not been met for years.
Republicans on the panel called for an additional hearing on DeJoy’s reforms, which he said would be released in March.
It has been reported that the DeJoy plan calls for a mix of higher postage rates and slower delivery times to close the gap between the agency’s revenues and its costs.
Some Democrats used the hearing to urge President Joe Biden to fill the three empty seats on the USPS board of governors. Both Bloom and DeJoy said the agency would welcome more diversity on the board, which Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., noted was composed entirely of white men.
Biden nominates three to board of governors
Responding to demands from Congressional Democrats, Biden nominated three new members to the Postal Service’s board of governors, including a former deputy postmaster general, a former postal union executive and a champion of voting by mail.
The nominations, subject to confirmation by the Senate, were sought by Democrats unhappy with DeJoy, who was appointed by a postal board composed of President Trump appointees.
One of the new members is former Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman, who left the board suddenly last year when he resigned as the No. 2 postal official. He said later he was not happy with the direction the board was taking.
Also in line for a seat on the board are Anton Hajjar, former general counsel for the American Postal Workers Union, and Amber McReynolds, former director of elections for the city and county of Denver, Colo. She is head of the National Vote at Home Institute.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., welcomed the nominations.
“They will bring a fresh perspective, a diversity in lived experience and a broader understanding of the challenges all Americans are suffering with the current USPS — something lacking in the current board of governors,” he said.
“My hope,” Connolly added, “is the newly constituted board will do the right thing and bring in a new, qualified postmaster general.”
The White House made the nominations public shortly after two members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform questioned the lack of women and minorities among the postal governors.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said the board “looks like a millionaires’ white boys club.”
Both board chairman Bloom and DeJoy said they would welcome additional appointees to the board.
It has seats for nine presidential appointees, and six are currently filled. Bloom’s term has expired, and he is allowed to remain as a holdover for one year or until his replacement is named.
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