WASHINGTON — President Biden’s three nominees to the US Postal Service’s governing board faced their first big test Thursday on Capitol Hill, where a Senate panel pressed them to maintain service levels and rein in parts of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan for the agency.
If the two Democrats and one independent win approval from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, their nominations will advance to the full chamber for a confirmation vote, which could come in a matter of weeks.
Their ascent would give Democrats a 5-4 majority bloc and control of the board for the first time since 2016. But that coalition may not be in sync when it comes to DeJoy — unseating him is a priority for many congressional Democrats — or the postal chief’s cost-cutting agenda: board Chairman Ron Bloom proclaimed his support for DeJoy as recently as Wednesday, while the board’s other Democrat, Donald Moak, has stayed mum.
Under questioning from Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the committee’s top Republican, all three nominees said they had not been subject to any “outside pressure” to fire DeJoy, and had not made any commitments about planning his dismissal.
Meanwhile, 50 House Democrats have called on Biden to fire the entire board and start over with a new slate of governors. Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, is the lone member of the upper chamber to echo that call. But the postal union that advocated for Bloom and Moak’s nominations during the Trump administration is urging lawmakers to drop that effort to ensure that two governors viewed as critical to the union’s goals remain on the panel.
As a result, there is growing concern among some Democrats that a reconfigured board may not be enough to change the direction of the mail service, according to House and Senate aides who spoke anonymously to discuss ongoing negotiations and party strategy, which has cast doubt on legislative efforts to enact broader postal reform.
The board candidates are steeped in postal experience and have expertise in voting rights and organized labor. Ron Stroman, a Democrat, is the recently retired deputy postmaster general and led the Biden transition’s Postal Service review team. Democrat Anton Hajjar is the former general counsel to the American Postal Workers Union. If confirmed, he’d be the only governor with experience as a postal worker; he served as a substitute letter carrier as a part-time job in high school. Amber McReynolds, a political independent, is the chief executive of the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Vote at Home Institute and a former elections director in Denver.
Each took veiled shots at DeJoy’s "Delivering for America" plan that he unveiled last month with the board’s support. That proposal aims to erase a projected $160 billion in losses in the next decade by raising prices, slashing administrative costs, and steadily moving the agency away from the mail business and toward package shipping.
It features significant investments in parcels that have drawn praise from both parties — including a plan to purchase as many as 165,000 low- or zero-emission mail trucks built to accommodate more packages — but Democrats in particular have raged over proposed delivery slowdowns.
"Regardless of where Americans live, we must ensure that every single community across the country has prompt, reliable, and equitable service," McReynolds said. DeJoy’s plan slows service based on the geography of mail senders and recipients.
"The universal service obligation of the Postal Service requires delivering prompt, reliable, and efficient service to all Americans all over the country. And it starts, it seems to me, with having a plan to ensure that you have great service," Stroman said. "That starts from the top of the organization and filters down throughout the organization."
Democrats wary of Bloom and Moak’s support for DeJoy have in recent days pushed colleagues in Congress to press the governors to increase oversight of the postmaster general, and to be open to the possibility of dismissing him as Congress works to pass postal reform legislation, according to six House and Senate aides. Conversations also are underway with the Biden administration to encourage the president not to nominate Bloom for a second seven-year term, they say. Bloom’s term expired in December, but he is serving in a one-year holdover until his successor is nominated and confirmed.
"There’s a growing number of people who say, maybe you don’t need to fire all the board, but you need to be able to create a majority to fire DeJoy," said one House aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss caucus strategy. "And there’s another group saying, when we get enough Democrats on the board, that will be enough to maybe slow down some of the things DeJoy is doing.
"If the White House looks at Bloom, they’ll see labor is behind him and ask, what’s wrong with him? But if they peel back the curtain, they’ll see he’s an enabler."
Postal Service representatives, who field Bloom’s media requests, did not respond to questions from The Washington Post.
“I do think there is a movement to name the other people on the board to vote [DeJoy] out,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said last week at a news conference discussing postal banking legislation. “So hopefully he will not be the postmaster general when this bill passes. If he is, Congress will give him lots of instructions on what to do.”