Biden Nominations Suggest Course Shift for Postal Service Board

President Joe Biden announced three nominations to the board of the U.S. Postal Service, signaling confidence in voting by mail and a possible change of course after months of turmoil over slowed delivery under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Biden named Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general; Anton Hajjar, former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union; and Amber McReynolds, an expert on election administration who leads the National Vote at Home Institute.

Stroman last year spoke on behalf of advocates for voting by mail, even as Republican President Donald Trump falsely disparaged the method as prone to fraud. McReynolds is an advocate of voting by mail, which was used by millions last year as citizens mindful of Covid-19 sought to avoid crowded polling places. Some Republicans after the election cited voting by mail as they claimed without foundation that Biden wasn’t legitimately elected.

“These experienced and tested leaders will ensure the USPS is running at the highest of service standards and that it can effectively and efficiently serve all communities in our country,” the White House said Wednesday in a statement announcing the nominations.

Democratic Edge

The three would fill vacant seats, and if confirmed by the Senate would give Democrats a majority of the nine presidentially-appointed slots on the Postal Board of Governors. The board selects the postmaster general, and Democrats have urged Biden to move to dismiss DeJoy. DeJoy, a logistics executive and donor to Trump, was chosen last year by the board under Republican leadership.

“It is crystal clear that the Postal Service’s performance and its financial condition have deteriorated significantly, and new and better leadership is urgently needed,” Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in an emailed statement.

DeJoy earlier Wednesday told the oversight committee that some mail could be delayed under a plan to revitalize the service. Delivery slowed last summer ahead of the anticipated deluge of mailed ballots, sparking accusations that DeJoy as seeking to impede remote voting, which he denied.

DeJoy on Wednesday divulged few details about a 10-year reform plan that’s being crafted by postal management. But, he said, “If we move forward with the plan, only about 30% of First Class Mail would be impacted with any additional delays.”

Deliveries Lagged

Mail delivery still hasn’t recovered from the drop in on-time delivery that began after DeJoy cut overtime and extra trips by delivery trucks in an effort to rein in costs. The changes were put on hold in August after an outcry, but performance lagged, with first-class mail falling below 63% on-time delivery the week before Christmas, according to a document posted online by the Oversight Committee.

Service has rebounded to 80% of first-class mail being delivered on-time in early February, according to the committee document.

DeJoy also called the service’s congressionally imposed requirement to fund retiree health benefits decades in advance “unfair and unaffordable.”

“Many people -- across the country and on this panel -- have grave concerns, and recent events have aggravated them,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform that held the hearing.

The Postal Service faces a decline in mail volume as well as the requirement to pay for health benefits for future retirees. Maloney called it “a dire financial situation that requires us to act.”

Newly selected postal Board of Governors Chairman Ron Bloom agreed that Congress should lift the retirees funding requirement. A bill under consideration would eliminate the mandate to fund retirees’ health care years in advance, and require Postal Service retirees to enroll in Medicare, at savings of $10 billion over 10 years, according to a summary released by the committee.

DeJoy said he wouldn’t divulge details because the plan is still being formed. He said the plan would be unveiled next month and would preserve delivery to every household, six days a week.

“Our dire financial trajectory” along with declining mail volume and other problems “all demand immediate action,” DeJoy said. “We see a path forward to sustainability, and good service.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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