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Biden's USPS Nominees Pledge to Reexamine Key DeJoy Initiatives

Nominees' confirmation would give Biden appointees a majority of the Senate-confirmed seats on the Postal Service board.

President Biden’s final two nominees to serve on the U.S. Postal Service’s board of governors promised to take a close look at key decisions made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, telling a Senate committee on Thursday they plan to be actively involved in overseeing the mailing agency.

Dan Tangherlini and Derek Kan’s confirmation would ensure Biden’s nominees constitute a majority of the Senate-approved seats on the board, perhaps shaking up the power dynamics that have allowed DeJoy to institute reforms without much resistance. Both nominees appear headed for swift confirmation after receiving bipartisan praise from members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday. 

While representing different parties—Tangherlini is a Democrat who headed the General Services Administration under President Obama, and Kan is a Republican who held multiple positions in the Trump administration—both nominees told lawmakers they would review DeJoy’s plans involving the slowing down of mail delivery, the purchasing of primarily gas-powered vehicles to replace its aging fleet and the implementation of recently passed postal reform legislation. The new service standards are a key part of DeJoy’s 10-year plan to set USPS on firmer financial footing and erase years of losses, but have been met with significant controversy and efforts to walk back the changes. Biden’s three previous nominees to the postal board quickly voiced their concerns with DeJoy’s plan after their confirmations. 

Asked if he would reexamine the service standard changes that slowed down delivery for about 40% of First-Class mail, Kan said he “absolutely” would “take a look” at them. Tangherlini made a similar promise, calling it the “highest priority.” Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who chairs the panel, and Tom Carper, D-Del., also pressed the nominees on a contract USPS signed with Oshkosh Defense to purchase up to 165,000 vehicles. While the White House and congressional Democrats have pleaded with DeJoy to buy more electric vehicles as USPS rebuilds its fleet, DeJoy has maintained going with primarily EVs would require an appropriation from Congress. The Postal Service last week officially placed its first order for 50,000 trucks and vans, including a higher-than-expected proportion of EVs. 

Tangherlini said he would “take whatever the appropriate steps are” to “see if there are changes that are necessary.” Kan vowed to review the economic assumptions behind the decision making and to hold discussions with postal management “to ensure it was a thoughtful process.” The House Oversight and Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Oshkosh contract and the EV purchases next week, while the Postal Service’s inspector general is planning to further probe the award and decision making process. 

In addition to his time at GSA, Tangherlini  has served as a senior official at the Treasury Department. Kan previously worked as an aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and later as a President Obama appointee to the Amtrak board and a President Trump appointee to Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget. They would replace Ron Bloom, the board’s former chairman whose term has expired, and John Barger, both of whom are allies of DeJoy.

Many advocacy groups and congressional Democrats have called on Biden to remove DeJoy from his post, but only the board can do so and it has yet to show any inclination to take that step. While their confirmation would give Biden appointees a majority of the Senate-confirmed seats, neither Tangherlini nor Kan expressed any desire to remove DeJoy during their confirmation hearing. Asked after the hearing why he did not more pointedly seek their perspective on whether DeJoy should continue in his role, Peters said it is up to the board to decide and was therefore not his place to disrupt the hearing with such a question. 

That answer echoed one White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave when asked in November if Tangherlini and Kan's confirmation could lead to DeJoy's ouster. 

"It’s up to the board to make a determination about leadership, but we have continued concerns about the postmaster general’s leadership," Psaki said.

Both nominees said they were excited to oversee the implementation of the recently passed postal reform legislation, which will end onerous payments toward health care benefits for future retirees, create new oversight requirements for postal delivery and open up new lines of business. Kan said he will ensure the implementation fully comports with congressional intent and vowed to ensure the new data reporting is as granular as possible to better enable USPS to identify areas to improve. Tangherlini said he was looking forward to overseeing the customer service elements of the law.