Louis DeJoy’s future as the US Postmaster General could be in question after a surprise move by the White House to oust two of the controversial GOP figure’s allies on the Postal Service’s board of governors.
President Joe Biden made the move on Friday to send the nominations of Daniel Tangherlini and Derek Kan to the Senate, a move which would replace two members of the board whose terms are expiring: Ron Bloom, the board’s chairman, and board member John Barger.
Mr Barger’s support for Mr DeJoy throughout his widely criticised operational changes at the USPS was not terribly surprising, as both are Republicans. However Mr DeJoy found a strategic ally in Mr Bloom, a Democrat who chaired the board. Mr Bloom previously held several positions in the Obama administration including a role in the government bailout and reorganising of automakers Chrysler and General Motors.
The USPS board has faced calls for months from critics, including Democrats in Congress, for Mr DeJoy to be removed from the top role due to the effects of his operational changes, including a significant worsening of mail delivery times.
Some changes seemed specifically aimed at making mail delivery slower or less convenient. High-speed mail sorting machines were decommissioned. Late trips to deliver mail were ended. Public mailboxes were removed from streets around the country.
Most if not all of those moves were reversed by USPS ahead of the 2020 election after significant outcry from Democrats. They called the measures an overt attempt by a supporter of Donald Trump to slash the US mail service at the behest of the forme president, who was repeatedly critical of mail-in voting.
Mr DeJoy was previously deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee, and served a role in the 2020 RNC convention. In June, it was revealed that he is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding campaign contributions made by employees of his logistics and freight company, New Breed Logistics.
Mr Bloom defended some of Mr DeJoy’s efforts earlier this year during testimony before the House. And as recently as last week he was reported by The Washington Post to have been telling colleagues that he expected the president to renominate him to the board, despite opposition from Democrats in both chambers of Congress.
Mr Biden does not have the authority to directly appoint or fire the Postmaster General, and is required to keep the nine-member board to a maximum of five members of the same party. Currently, the board is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with one independent member.
Still, the Biden administration has kept up a steady stream of pressure in public statements aimed at the board’s governors urging them to reevaluate the leadership of the agency amid the service slowdowns.
“[W]e have continued concerns about the Postmaster General’s leadership,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her Friday news briefing. She added that the White House takes “serious issu[e] with the job he’s doing running the Postal Service”.
The battle over the Postal Service represents a fundamental disagreement between different schools of thought among US lawmakers about how the agency should operate.
Republicans and some conservative Democrats have supported cuts to services and increased fees, defending the measures as necessary to make the agency financially solvent, and characterising the Postal Service as a business run by the government. Progressives have argued the opposite: that the Postal Service is a government-provided service and therefore should be funded by Congress rather than rely on tactics aimed at cost-cutting.
Earlier this year Mr DeJoy announced more service cuts as part of a 10-year plan to reform the agency’s finances.
The effort had been delayed in 2020 after Democrats raised concerns over further slowing of mail service at a time when a record number of Americans were voting by mail due to the Covid pandemic.
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