By JENNIFER MANDATO
Capital News Service Washington Bureau
President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated three people to fill vacancies on the United States Postal Service Board of Governors.
The nominations came the same day Louis DeJoy apologized to a congressional panel about poor mail service but insisted the problems existed before he took over the USPS.
Congressional Democrats have written letters and publicly called on the president to fill board vacancies in a move that could ultimately result in DeJoy being out of a job.
The board vacancies were a major topic of debate during a Wednesday hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Ron Bloom, the board chairman, told lawmakers that the board has lacked full attendance for at least six or seven years. The 11-member board has nine members in staggered terms chosen by the president. The board selects the postmaster general, and then the board and the postmaster general appoint the deputy postmaster general (a position also currently vacant).
As the board is currently made up of six white males, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, called for diversity.
“An agency of over 640,000 employees that come from every walk of life and serve the entire American public should have representation at the top reflective of the broader American population,” she said.
She asked DeJoy: “Do you see it as a problem that the Board of Governors for the United States Postal Service looks like a millionaire white boys club?”
It appears that Biden’s nominees are intended to address that lack of diversity and all have some degree of experience with the postal industry.
Anton Hajjar is the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and has also served as an adviser and pro bono attorney in employment discrimination cases.
Amber McReynolds is the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit dedicated to expanding and improving vote-by-mail systems in all 50 states.
The third nominee is Ronald Stroman, who recently served as deputy postmaster general and chief governmental relations officer for the USPS.
Biden’s nominees will all have to be confirmed by the Senate. If approved, the newly-filled board could move in the direction Democrats are hoping for – adding two men of color and a woman – and create a majority to replace DeJoy, a donor to former President Donald Trump.
DeJoy maintained that many of the problems at the Postal Service existed long before he became postmaster general.
“The years of financial stress, under-investment, unachievable service standards and lack of operational precision have resulted in a system that does not have adequate resilience to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances,” he said.
Some committee members were less than impressed with this approach.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, scoffed at DeJoy’s plan to lengthen mail delivery times.
“It sounds like your solution to the problems you’ve identified is to surrender,” Raskin said. “Because the mail has been late under your leadership we’re just gonna change the standards and build it into the system that it will be late.”
Throughout the hearing, DeJoy alluded to a “strategic plan.” He told Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Baltimore, that plan would be ready in the next two weeks and that he is “always happy” to return before the committee and explain the details of it.
But Rep, Katie Porter, D-California, was skeptical.
“I’ve heard that you have a new strategic plan, but I’m really concerned that this plan may neither be strategic nor a plan,” she said.
Earlier in the day, redesigned Postal Service delivery trucks were unveiled and are set to replace current vehicles that are, on average, 25 years old. The “next generation delivery vehicle” is set to take to the streets in 2023 and will include increased safety features – shockingly, airbags – and more cargo space. Some of the fleet also will be electric.
Another issue facing the Postal Service is Medicare integration for Postal Service employees.
The USPS is the only agency required to pre-fund employees’ retirement funds. Only 73 percent of Postal Service retirees are enrolled in the program, and if the Medicare integration is passed it would require current employees to enroll once they turn 65.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, and chairwoman of the panel, said that Medicare integration would save the USPS $10 billion over the next 10 years, to which DeJoy said that projections on his end show at least $30 billion in savings over that same time frame.
Each witness, including Bloom and Mark Dimondstein, president of the APWU, announced support for Medicare integration.