Will Democrats Oust the Postmaster General?
President Joe Biden will nominate three individuals to join the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Reportedly, they are Ron Stroman, the former deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, the chief executive of National Vote at Home Institute; and Anton Hajjar, a former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union.
If the Senate approves these nominations, the Board will have its full cohort of 9 governors, which it has not had in many years. The postmaster general and his or her deputy also serve on the board, although they do not vote on all governance issues.
Democrats have urged for Biden to make enough nominations to tip the board’s partisan balance to the left, in hopes the board would subsequently fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Their ire for DeJoy a logistics industry veteran, began the moment he was selected by the Board of Governors last June.
DeJoy’s history of fundraising for Trump and Republicans made him suspect in their eyes. When USPS’s delivery speed ebbed in late summer 2020 at the same time that Trump was decrying voting by mail, Democrats pounded and began falsely accusing DeJoy of conspiring to steal the election by slowing down the mail. Leftist protestors began making a racket outside his home and liberal special interests began fundraising on the theme of saving the Postal Service from Trump.
During a recent hearing on the USPS, Democrats heaped opprobrium from the dias and called for his removal. President Biden has remained mum on the subject. When asked, his spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said, “It’s up to the board of governors, of which we just nominated three individuals to serve, and we certainly leave it up to their discretion.”
The USPS’ Board of Governors was created by the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act, which transformed the Post Office Department (a standard agency) into the self-funding Postal Service. The department had been plagued by deficits and labor strife, and both presidents and members of Congress meddled in the agency to the detriment of its operations. The new USPS was deemed an “independent agency of the executive branch,” and given greater authority to operate in a business-like manner.
No more would the agency’s head be a political animal nominated by a president. Instead a corporate-like board of governors would have the power to hire the postmaster general. Governors were given 9-year terms (later reduced to 7 years) to help them maintain their independence, and the law allows no more than 5 governors to be of the same political party.
The Board had its ups and downs over the decades. Too often, its nominees were picked by presidents on the basis of political calculations, and proved little capable or interested in assessing the performance of the postmaster general.
“The Governors shall represent the public interest generally, and shall be chosen solely on the basis of their experience in the field of public service, law or accounting or on their demonstrated ability in managing organizations or corporations (in either the public or private sector) of substantial size; except that at least 4 of the Governors shall be chosen solely on the basis of their demonstrated ability in managing organizations or corporations (in either the public or private sector) that employ at least 50,000 employees. The Governors shall not be representatives of specific interests using the Postal Service, and may be removed only for cause.”
The underlined text reflects the 2006 amendment. The present Board of Governors features individuals with deep business experience, which is all to the better.
Biden’s three nominees have different career backgrounds. All of them meet the requirement of having experience in public service. None of them appear to have spent time managing an organization of 50,000 or more employees. Which means that when any of the current Governors’ terms are done, President Biden will need to nominate someone who has that experience. He could flout this legal requirement, but that would invite any senator to put a hold on his nominee.
Canning DeJoy requires 5 votes. That means at least two of the current governors must be willing to vote for DeJoy’s dismissal, along with all three of the presumptive governors. This seems unlikely. No governor has publicly expressed concern about the postmaster general, and Governor Ron Bloom, a Democrat, has been steadfast in his support of DeJoy. Additionally, nominee McReynolds is a political independent, whose assessment of the postmaster general is unknown.
But what if Biden should nominate anti-Dejoy Democrats to replace Governor John Barger and Governor Bloom, both of whose tenures expire in December? Again, any senator may place a hold on one or both of the nominations. This is exactly what happened to President Barack Obama. He had hoped to move a slate of nominees and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) objected to two of them — so none of them got appointed.
Since the Postal Reorganization Act was passed, no postmaster general has been canned, certainly not a year into his first term. The Postal Service’s Board of Governors has a tradition of acting with unanimity, which is in keeping with the intention of the law: to keep oversight of the USPS nonpartisan. Democrats may try but presently they seem unlikely to be able to bust this governing norm.
Kevin R. Kosar is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.