The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee will be doing something today it has not done in this session of Congress: marking up, that is acting on, a piece of legislation specific to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
On August 25, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the committee, introduced H.R. 8109, the Nonpartisan Postmaster General Act. The crux of the measure is to prevent anyone who has held elected office in the past four years, or served as “an officer, director, or employee” of a political party from becoming Postmaster General. It also bars those serving on the Board of Governors from soliciting campaign funds or holding elected office.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has had USPS on its high-risk list of government agencies since 2009. A May 7 GAO report, “U.S. Postal Service: Congressional Action Is Essential to Enable a Sustainable Business Model,” urges Congress to make major reforms. Clearly, this legislation does not do that and the focus on these relatively minor issues is distracting from the need for major reforms.
H.R. 8109 is in reaction to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors’ appointment of Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. Mr. DeJoy did extensive fundraising for President Trump and the Republican Party.
One of the important skills and job requirements for a Postmaster General (PMG) is the ability to work with elected officials in Congress. Restricting future candidates for PMG to those who have not been in an elected office in four years means that future PMGs are likely to be either those within the ranks of the Postal Service itself or business executives.
Thus, independent-minded, politically savvy management superstars like Mitt Romney and Michael Bloomberg would not be eligible to be PMG under the bill. This significantly reduces the pool of qualified potential candidates.
Also, the Board is already structured to be politically diverse. No more than five of the nine governors can be of the same political party. Thus, even if a Board were obsessively driven by politics, the composition of it can easily change in a short period of time and the new board can remove a PMG.
The legislation would also drive away qualified candidates to serve on the Board of Governors. The Governors’ immense responsibilities include directing and controlling USPS expenditures, reviewing its practices, conducting long-range planning, approving officer compensation, and setting policies on all postal matters. The Board also addresses service standards and capital investments.
The most a Governor can currently earn is $42,600 annually, through salary and per diem. For directors at S&P 500 companies who have similar responsibilities, the average compensation is more than $300,000 annually. It is quite hard to find qualified Governors; additional restrictions will make it harder.
H.R. 8109 is likely to pass the Committee and even the full House, but quite unlikely to become law, at least in this session of Congress. Future attempts to revise the structure of the Board of Governors should be undertaken in concert with holistic postal reform, and the legislative give and take that must be part of that process.
About the Author: Paul Steidler is Senior Fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.
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