Postal Service faces skepticism from House lawmakers
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
The House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Government Operations billed a Nov. 16 hearing as a check on how well prepared the United States Postal Service is for the 2022 holiday mail crush.
The five witnesses, including the Postal Service’s inspector general, agreed that the USPS is better prepared than ever for its most critical period.
But the two-hour session also illustrated that the USPS still faces skepticism from the same Democratic lawmakers who rescued the agency with billions in federal tax funds this spring.
And the subcommittee’s ranking Republican was even more dire.
The USPS is “a sinking ship and we all know it,” said Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.
He repeated that remark twice during the hearing, where he also berated Democratic efforts to put the USPS back in the banking business.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, came to the hearing to voice a basic worry about the agency she helped rescue this spring.
“But I still have concerns about service quality at the Postal Service,” she told the Subcommittee on Government Operations.
“First-class mail is once again delivered on schedule about 90 percent of the time,” she said.
“But the Postal Service achieved these gains, at least in part, by weakening its own service standards,” Maloney said.
There are “other troubling recent trends, like a spike in mail thefts, threatening Americans’ trust in the mail,” she said.
“On top of that the postmaster general is still planning potentially disruptive service changes,” she concluded.
Maloney’s remark was a jab at Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s Delivering for America plan, which calls for major changes in how mail is transported.
Maloney, who has been one of DeJoy’s sharpest critics, was not alone in her worries.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., complained that mail theft is becoming an increasing problem in the nation’s capital.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., the Subcommittee on Government Operations chairman who conducted the hearing, said that the USPS “is struggling to hire temporary workers because of a tight labor market and insufficient wages and benefits.” That could affect holiday mail, he said.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., was furious that she had been barred once again from visiting a south Florida mailing plant that has had trouble processing election mail. She wanted an explanation for why she still was blocked despite a favorable ruling from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that the USPS should not bar members of Congress from visiting postal facilities.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., complained that the Teaneck area of his district has been plagued by mail thefts for three years. He said he could not get information on why a postal investigation of the crimes was taking so long.
Another DeJoy critic, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., said DeJoy’s plan was not good.
The Postal Service’s planning for the 2022 holiday mailing season won support from USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb Hull and Gregory White, the Postal Service’s executive manager of strategic initiatives. Both endorsed the Postal Services’ planning for handling holiday mail with a mix of temporary workers, 249 more package-processing machines and added postal annexes.
“It’s a good plan,” Hull said.
“We are not the organization we were two years ago,” said White.
Michael Plunkett, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, said there was “no way we should expect systematic” problems like the ones that plagued the USPS in 2020.
The hearing probably was one of the last the House will hold on a postal issue while it is under Democratic control.
Republicans did join in support of legislation this spring that helped the Postal Service emerge from a period of running large deficits.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has indicated in interviews he expects to become chairman of the committee and wants “to hit the ground running.”
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