Hyping a big Postal Service reorganization plan that he still hasn’t unveiled publicly yet, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appeared before Congress Wednesday with a declaration, rather than details: I’m here to stay.
Pressed by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), DeJoy said Wednesday that he planned on serving “a long time.”
“Get used to me,” DeJoy added, hinting at a months-in-the-works plan that was not released in time for the hearing.
The defiant stance from DeJoy came just days after dozens of House Democrats called on President Joe Biden to fill three existing vacancies on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, which in turn, they wrote, “will allow the Board to seriously consider whether the current Postmaster General is suitable to continue in his role.”
And, as it happens, news broke in the middle of the hearing that Biden will nominate three people to fill the existing vacancies, enough for a potential majority on the Board of Governors open to replacing DeJoy.
The board is currently chaired by Ron Bloom, a Trump-appointed Democrat who would likely be a deciding factor in any effort to remove DeJoy. He could also be replaced because he was selected to serve a term that ended in December last year. Bloom voiced his support for DeJoy Wednesday.
The call for DeJoy’s ouster wasn’t universal among Democrats at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but it came up several times.
After DeJoy refused to say that he’d give local plant managers flexibility to reinstall large mail sorting machines, for example, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) commented, “that’s why the President needs to fill the board, so that he can get the postmaster general who’s actually committed to making sure that that happens.”
Much of Democrats’ anger at the postmaster general stemmed from a Washington Post report that he is considering ending two-day delivery for first-class mail. The report, parts of which DeJoy confirmed under questioning Wednesday, would also limit the use of air transport for first-class mail.
“It sounds like your solution to the problems you’ve identified is to surrender,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told DeJoy after the postmaster general detailed problems with delays in priority mail.
“The standards have not been met,” DeJoy replied. He said later, in response to other questions, “Does it make a difference if it’s an extra day to get a letter? Because something has to change.”
Still, plenty of the contentious back-and-forth Wednesday focused on 2020.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and other Republicans accused Democrats of fear-mongering and conspiracy theorizing when they denounced moves by DeJoy that had the effect of slowing mail delivery year. Jordan said Democrats’ tone had only softened given the outcome of the 2020 election.
“It was all a charade,” Jordan said. “It was all part of the predicate for laying the groundwork for the mail-in balloting, and all of the chaos and confusion the Democrats wanted.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), speaking right after Jordan, wasn’t hearing it. Multiple federal judges prevented DeJoy from carrying out several of the changes he initiated as postmaster general last year, Connolly reminded the committee, and the President himself spent months falsely asserting that voting by mail would lead to widespread fraud.
“I didn’t vote to overturn an election,” Connolly said. “And I will not be lectured by people who did.”
Still, there were moments of agreement throughout the hearing.
DeJoy acknowledged, for example, that his mid-year decision to order mail delivery trucks to depart facilities strictly on time — rather than taking extra time to ensure they were carrying their full loads — actually delayed mail in the end.
And the postmaster general and several other witnesses expressed their support for draft legislation that would, among other things, eliminate the Postal Service’s congressionally mandated pre-funding requirement for workers’ retirement health care benefits. Unlike other federal agencies, USPS is currently required to save up for its current employees’ health care decades in the future, putting it perpetually in billions’ of dollars of debt.
“It’s been an unfair situation for the Postal Service,” DeJoy said for the pre-funding mandate. “It needs to be corrected.”