President Biden’s nominations to fill out the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board will give his priorities greater weight in the mailing agency’s future, but appear unlikely to bring about a swift end to Louis DeJoy’s tenure as postmaster general.
Biden on Wednesday put forward Ron Stroman, until recently the deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, a voting rights activist; and Anton Hajjar, a former American Postal Workers Union official, to fill the three vacancies currently on the board. If confirmed, the board of governors would see all nine Senate-confirmed seats occupied for the first time in more than a decade and a more balanced makeup with four Republicans, four Democrats and one independent.
Only the board would have the authority to remove the embattled DeJoy—as some congressional Democrats and stakeholders have sought—a process that would require a majority vote from the panel. The existing members, however, all of whom were appointed by President Trump, have shown little interest in taking such a drastic step. Earlier this month, Ron Bloom, a Democrat and former Obama administration appointee, became chairman of the panel. Bloom reiterated on Wednesday he worked closely with DeJoy on the postmaster general’s forthcoming 10-year business plan and it would have his support.
Bloom, who once helped write a report commissioned by the National Association of Letters Carriers that castigated then-postal management for proposing to slash services and standards, has called DeJoy’s plan—which is set to include a slowdown of mail delivery standards—“bold and comprehensive” and said it would “make the necessary changes and do what is right for this great organization.” The chairman, who is serving in a holdover year that will expire in December, approved of DeJoy’s appointment last year.
Some lawmakers have called on Biden to lean on the existing board members to oust DeJoy or replace them with all of his own nominees, but the White House has shown little interest in pursuing such an aggressive path.
“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,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday when asked about DeJoy’s future. She added that “most Americans agree that the Postal Service needs leadership that can and will do a better job,” but those remarks were in reference to Biden’s nominees.
John McHugh, chairman of the Package Coalition, an alliance of large-scale mailers such as Amazon and eBay, said it would be surprising for Bloom to endorse DeJoy’s messaging and then “turn around and vote to remove him.”
“I don’t think that was the president’s main objective here,” McHugh said. “The objective was to get a more full board.” He added that Biden sent a signal he was paying attention to postal issues by filling the vacancies so early in his tenure.
Mike Plunkett, a former USPS executive and president of PostCom, another alliance of postal customers, similarly said nothing in the White House’s actions or rhetoric has indicated it is “out for blood.” He added such an approach would likely not be the best tactical move for Biden, even if he were intent on reversing course at the mailing agency.
“Without a succession plan in place, some preemptive strike to take out leadership would cause unnecessary disruption,” Plunkett said.
DeJoy himself does not see his job as in jeopardy.
“Get used to me,” he told lawmakers on Wednesday, adding he would remain in his job for “a long time.”
During his campaign, Biden vowed to fill the board vacancies, put the Postal Service on firmer financial footing, help postal employees join unions and defend the agency’s obligation to deliver to every address in the country. He criticized Trump’s adversarial relationship with the mailing agency, but never promised to seek to remove DeJoy. In addition to nominating the board members, Biden has furthered his influence on USPS decision making by replacing Robert Taub, a Republican, as chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, with Michael Kubayanda, a Democrat. DeJoy said on Wednesday that part of his plan would seek to slow down about 30% of First-Class mail in part by reducing reliance on air transportation, but that proposal would require a sign off from PRC.
Stroman, a Democrat who spent nearly a decade as the second in command at USPS before he retired last year and has more than 40 years of federal government experience, brings a depth of knowledge to the board that governor nominees typically do not possess.
“He knows the system inside and out,” McHugh said. “It would be hard for anybody to question his credentials.” He added that Hajar, the former APWU general counsel, will be able to “quickly come back up to speed” on current postal issues.
Plunkett agreed that Stroman’s experience was much needed.
Stephen Kearney, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, said it was unusual to see board members so well versed in postal issues.
“All three have real experience, and really relevant experience,” Kearney said. “So for me it’s a step up from what we’ve seen.”
By law, the postal board can only have five presidentially appointed members from the same party. McReynolds, an independent, would be serving with four Republicans and four Democrats if all of Biden’s picks are confirmed. Four board slots are set to expire in the next two years, giving Biden plenty of opportunity to take USPS leadership in a different direction in his first term if he is not satisfied with how things have played out.
Lee Moak, the only other Democrat in addition to Bloom currently on the board, has not publicly commented on DeJoy’s plan. Bloom said the board would vote to approve the blueprint before it is released, though it appears unlikely Biden’s nominees would be confirmed in time to participate in that process.