Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

House Panel Advances Bipartisan Postal Overhaul Measure, USPS Board Gets New Members

The Postal Service could finally win legislative fixes it has sought for 15 years.

Congress on Thursday took multiple actions to support the U.S. Postal Service, advancing legislation to relieve the agency of some of its financial burdens and providing it with additional leadership. 

The House Oversight and Reform Committee unanimously approved the 2021 Postal Reform Act after Republicans begrudgingly offered their support. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., co-authored the bill and emphasized at Thursday’s markup it represented a compromise. Virtually all Republicans who spoke on the measure said they were supporting it despite their significant reservations. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said Comer was a “tough negotiator” and told colleagues it was the hardest she had ever worked on a bill. 

A Republican committee aide told Government Executive that the GOP side successfully fought to remove a provision Democrats had originally included to restrict USPS from altering its service standards. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is in the midst of implementing his business plan, which includes a slowing down of delivery for some mail. The negotiations also led to more thorough public reporting requirements on mail delays through regular, online postings, required updates to Congress on the implementation of DeJoy’s plan and a facilitation of his proposal to shift more mail delivery away from the air and toward ground transportation, the aide said. 

The core of the bill will shift more postal retirees to Medicare for their health care and require most postal workers to select postal-specific health care plans. It would take onerous payments toward health care benefits for future retirees off the agency’s balance sheets.

“The bipartisan reforms included in this bill will increase transparency, improve service, and put the Postal Service on more sustainable footing for years to come,” Maloney said ahead of the vote. 

The committee passed another bill to boost tracking ballots sent through USPS and to provide all postal employees with paid parental leave, but did so without Republican support. Congress passed legislation last year to provide such leave to all civil servants, but it excluded postal workers. Republicans said the provision would add too heavy a financial burden to the mailing agency. Democrats also led the approval of amendments to block service standard changes and to provide $8 billion to USPS to electrify its fleet. 

In the Senate on Thursday, lawmakers approved Amber McReynolds to serve on the USPS board of governors. One of three nominees from President Biden to fill vacancies on the board, the former voting rights advocate who helped shift Denver to an entirely vote-by-mail city won bipartisan support in a 59-38 vote. 

McReynolds is “constantly asking how to make things better, how to make things more efficient, how to make complex systems simpler and more accessible and useful to people,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said from the Senate floor. “That’s exactly the kind of experience we need at the Postal Service, especially at a time when more Americans are voting by mail than ever before.”

McReynolds' confirmation followed bipartisan approval on Wednesday for Ronald Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general, to sit on the board. DeJoy this week named Douglas Tulino, who has worked at USPS for 41 years, to serve as Stroman’s replacement as the second in command. Tulino is currently, and will remain, the chief human resources officer at the Postal Service and has spearheaded recent efforts to downsize the USPS workforce through early retirement offers and layoffs. DeJoy said Tulino will play a “pivotal role” in ensuring the Postal Service “has the culture, talent and stability” necessary to operate successfully. 

The postal board still has one vacant seat, with Biden nominating former American Postal Workers Union General Counsel Anton Hajjar for the slot. Hajjar’s name was not included with McReynolds’ and Stroman’s for confirmation this week, but an aide said it was merely a scheduling issue and he will be up for a vote soon. Democrat-aligned appointees to the board would not hold a majority of its Senate-confirmed slots until Hajjar is confirmed. 

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who joined many congressional Democrats in criticizing DeJoy’s 10-year business plan when it was unveiled in March, said the confirmation of Biden’s nominees would provide a necessary check on the postmaster general. 

“Fast forward to today,” Carper said on the Senate floor Thursday after further critiquing DeJoy’s plan. “By selecting these nominees for the Postal Service’s board of governors, it is clear that President Biden recognizes the dire need to get the Postal Service back to its core mission: reliable, affordable and on-time mail delivery service for Americans across our nation.”