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Biden Signs Postal Reform Into Law
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
So many words, so little space: President Joe Biden signing into law the long-lingering congressional postal initiative, the highly successful 2022 NAPS Legislative Training Seminar, an illuminating confirmation hearing and subsequent committee vote on two USPS Board of Governors nominees, newfound concerns over the 2021 USPS delivery goals and controversy over procurement of a new delivery fleet. A lot to talk about in this limited space.
April 6 was, indeed, a red-letter day. It was the culmination of years of relentless legislative advocacy, resulting in President Biden affixing his signature to H.R. 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022—now, Public Law 117-108. The three NAPS resident officers and I witnessed the signing ceremony in the White House State Dining Room.
President Biden first spoke about the importance of the Postal Service and its employees and the crucial role the agency has played in support of our democracy and economy. Following the brief address, key House and Senate bill advocates joined the President on the stage, surrounding a small desk on which the enrolled bill was placed, along with the pen he would use to inscribe his signature on the legislation.
After the 30-minute ceremony ended, President Ivan D. Butts, Executive Vice President Chuck Mulidore and Secretary/Treasurer Jimmy Warden each had the opportunity, individually and collectively, to share words of appreciation with the President for his long-term recognition of the essential work provided by postal employees and, of course, his strong support of the bill. The national officers also underscored the vital role postal supervisors, managers and postmasters play in accepting, processing and delivering America’s mail.
Although the event was celebratory, there was acknowledgment that considerable work needs to be done to restore the Postal Service to a performance level that American citizens expect and deserve. In fact, at a Senate confirmation hearing that took place a week before the White House event, Postal Board of Governors nominees Daniel Tangherlini and Derek Kan both assured the committee they would closely examine key decisions made by current USPS executive leadership to slow mail delivery. Tangherlini amplified it was the “highest priority.”
The committee and the nominees likely are aware of a not too widely disseminated fall 2021 Gallup survey of the American public that documents a 17% drop in the public’s approval of the Postal Service over the past two years, removing the agency from its historic number-one rating among federal agencies. While the pandemic and political attacks on the institution contributed to this embarrassing USPS decline, Gallup singled out the delivery slow-down as the major factor in the public’s assessment.
About five hours before the White House bill-signing event, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved the nominations of Tangherlini and Kan. For unknown reasons, Republican Sens. Josh Hawley (MO), James Lankford (OK) and Scott Perry (FL) voted “no” on the Tangherlini nomination. We expect the full Senate to confirm both nominations shortly.
The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) also was critical of the USPS performance in its recently released Annual Compliance Determination of the institution. One of the items identified as part of Postal Service filings was its abandonment of the 95% on-time delivery target intended to be achieved on implementation of the new 2021 service standards. This was the Postal Service-promoted target submitted to the PRC last year as part of the agency’s request to change its service standards.
Just recently, the Postal Service revised its representation to the PRC by stating it intends to “transition” to the 95% level “over several years.” The USPS now claims the 95% level currently is unachievable. Once again, postal leadership’s credibility is called into question.
As part of President Biden’s statement at the White House ceremony, he spoke in strong support of modernizing and electrifying the postal delivery fleet. On the day before the bill-signing, the House Oversight and Reform Committee conducted a hearing on the opportunities and challenges of electrifying the postal delivery fleet. Although the USPS has been restrained in embracing electrification, a week before the hearing, the agency announced it would purchase 10,000 electric vehicles as part of its initial 50,000-vehicle purchase order with the Oshkosh Corporation.
These 10,000 vehicles represent a two-fold increase from its previously announced electric vehicle order. The hearing centered on whether the USPS could sustain the infrastructure to support electrified vehicles, particularly for rural deliveries; the impact that gas-fueled vehicles have on the environment and climate; the capability to acquire the elements to manufacture electric batteries for vehicles; and the cost differential between gasoline and electricity to fuel the vehicles.
As a final point, I would to thank this year’s nearly 400 LTS participants, because—at least as reflected by the completed delegate surveys—the event was enormously successful. The overwhelming number of congressional engagements were in person on Capitol Hill, the presentations by our guests were enlightening and entertaining and the legislative training was informative and actionable. But, most importantly, the event allowed NAPS members to once again network with each other. Looking forward to 2023!