Two Outgoing Lawmakers Are Jockeying for Slots on the USPS Board
Before exiting Congress, two Democrats are soliciting support for nominations from President Biden.
Two Democratic lawmakers who will no longer serve in Congress next year are looking to the U.S. Postal Service to continue their careers in the federal government.
Both Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., have thrown their names into the White House’s hat as it contemplates potential replacements for two of the nine appointed slots on the USPS board of governors. Maloney and Lawrence have reached out to postal unions and management associations soliciting support for their candidacies, according to several people involved in those discussions, and some vetting is underway.
The terms of two current board members, Lee Moak and Bill Zollars, are set to expire Dec. 8, though both are eligible to be kept on for a “carryover year.” President Biden could also opt to renominate one or both governors to a seven-year term. Any of the president’s postal board nominees would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Maloney currently serves as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where she shepherded a major postal reform bill into law for the first time in 15 years. Her bill, for which she won bipartisan and bicameral support, was finally enacted this year after lawmakers had tried and failed to pass similar legislation for the last decade. The measure is expected to provide $107 billion in financial relief to USPS over the coming years. Maloney lost her reelection primary this year after she was forced to run against another incumbent, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., due to redistricting.
The 30-year lawmaker has made her case for a board spot to stakeholders by highlighting that bill’s passage and her work to ensure USPS purchases more electric vehicles as it replaces its aging fleet, according to multiple people with thom she has spoken. Maloney has at times clashed with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, but has softened some of her language since working to earn his support on her reform legislation.
“The congresswoman is exploring many options as to how she can best continue serving New York City and the nation as she determines her next steps post-Congress,” a spokesperson said. “While she is not ready to make any official announcements on what those next steps may be, she is going to build upon her prolific career as a public servant to continue helping New Yorkers.”
Lawrence would also come to the post with extensive knowledge of postal operations, having worked at the agency for 30 years. The lawmaker initially expressed reservations about the reform law, noting concerns that it would allow USPS to reduce service standards, but ultimately voted in favor of it.
Ivan Butts, president of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, said his group is supporting Lawrence’s candidacy. Outside of the recently confirmed Ronald Stroman, who Biden nominated to the postal board after serving as deputy postmaster general, Butts said Lawrence would bring experience to the panel that no one else on it has. While Butts said he appreciates what Maloney did ushering through postal reform, Lawrence maintains a deeper understanding of the organization.
Multiple sources confirmed Lawrence has gone through preliminary vetting for a potential nomination.
“As a 30-year veteran of the United States Postal Service, I have served as a distribution clerk, letter carrier, EEO investigator, and human resources manager,” Lawrence told Government Executive. “The House Committee on Oversight and Reform was my first-choice committee assignment because it has jurisdiction over the U.S. Postal Service. After nearly one decade in Congress, I have never wavered in my commitment to the Postal Service.”
Some stakeholders are more apprehensive about Lawrence, noting she formerly worked in human resources and therefore took adversarial positions against employees when representing management. Those in the mailing industry, meanwhile, suggested Maloney or Lawrence would likely continue the trend of allowing for significant price hikes. Mike Plunkett, president of PostCom, said he is working with other industry groups to potentially identify other viable candidates, but they have yet to put forward any recommendations.
While Biden could renominate Moak or Zollars, both were appointed by President Trump and the White House could be looking to further place its imprint on the board. Five of the nine current board members were nominated by Biden, including one Republican and one independent.
Moak is a Democrat who was recommended to the post by Senate Democrats, though he has expressed support for DeJoy’s vision for the agency. While he has been a labor leader as president of the Air Line Pilots Association, some observers have expressed concern over his connection to Trump’s orbit. As first reported by CNBC, Stefan Passantino, a former deputy counsel in Trump’s White House, provided legal services to the Moak Group, the board member’s public affairs consulting firm, in excess of $5,000, according to Passantino’s ethics filing. Passantino subsequently worked for the Trump Organization and at a firm that received $1.6 million from the former president’s political action committees to represent witnesses before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
Moak did not respond to questions regarding the nature of his work with Passantino.
Both Moak and Zollars are eligible to stay in their positions for up to one year after their term expires, but would be replaced as soon as new nominees are confirmed and sworn in. Federal statute requires no more than five members of the board be of the same party. The current makeup of the board is four Democrats, four Republicans and one independent, meaning Biden could nominate two Democrats—Maloney and Lawrence, for example—if he chooses to renominate neither Moak nor Zollars. Such an approach could complicate the confirmation process if it bleeds into next year and Republicans take control of the chamber, as the new majority party could demand a bipartisan slate.
This story has been updated with comment from Rep. Lawrence.