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Would-Be Postal Regulators Pledge to Hold Mailing Agency More Accountable

PRC nominees say hitting performance goals, finalizing pricing system are top priorities.

Two potential U.S. Postal Service regulators want to take new steps to ensure the mailing agency is delivering mail on time and meeting all of its performance goals, the nominees told lawmakers on Tuesday. 

Ann Fisher and Ashley Poling would fill two vacancies on the Postal Regulatory Commission, which approves USPS rates, tracks negotiated agreements and provides other oversight functions. Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expressed support for the nominees, both of whom formerly worked for the panel. 

Fisher has spent the last 12 years at PRC after her experience on Capitol Hill, while Poling has spent the last five years working on postal issues for Democrats on the committee. Both nominees said finding ways to incentivize USPS to meet its goals would be a key priority if confirmed to their roles. 

“The No. 1 issue is performance,” Fisher said. 

Poling questioned the data USPS provides to PRC and Congress, noting when it last revised its delivery standards—largely eliminating overnight delivery and slowing other timeframes to enable large-scale processing plant closures—the agency realized just 5.6% of its projected savings. 

“One thing I want to explore is, is there more that can be done in terms of holding USPS accountable?” Poling said. 

Both nominees also highlighted the ongoing review of the Postal Service’s rate-setting system. The plan PRC put forward in 2017 would deny the Postal Service’s request to have full autonomy in establishing its prices, but proposed new caps to allow USPS to increase its rates by more than the previous inflation-based ceiling. Fisher and Poling identified the finalizing of a pricing system that provides stability to USPS customers as the top step PRC could take without legislation to help improve the mailing agency’s fiscal outlook. 

Poling suggested PRC give the Postal Service additional flexibility in setting its rates if the agency meets its performance goals. She also said PRC should provide “more thorough oversight” of USPS’ negotiated agreements that provide discounts to large-scale mailers, a key priority for President Trump who has insisted—without evidence—that Amazon is receiving a cushy deal. 

Fisher briefly touched on an issue long considered a third-rail in efforts to reform the Postal Service, suggesting PRC provide an updated look at the universal service obligation and its statutory monopolies.   

“I would love for the commission to provide Congress with food for thought to help them move ahead in these areas,” Fisher said. 

The Trump administration has proposed its own ideas for reforming the Postal Service, including a more aggressive pricing model. A task force Trump created suggested maintaining the existing methodology for “essential services”—a term used to include, among other things, person-to-person mail and packages, bills and government mailings—while charging more for commercial deliveries, such as e-commerce packages, marketing mail and advertising mail.