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Changing of the Guard
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
Milton Berle, one of the greatest comedians of television’s “Golden Age,” once joked, “You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think.” Our job—as advocates for postal supervisors, managers and postmasters—is to compel the men and women elected to Congress not only to “think” about issues of concern to NAPS members, but also to “legislate” for their benefit and the benefit of the U.S. Postal Service.
NAPS members should be proud that 91% of the incumbents and candidates supported by the Supervisors’ Political Action Committee (SPAC) won their midterm elections. Thank you to all our NAPS members who contributed to SPAC during this election cycle.
Many of those we supported were in highly competitive races, so your contributions really made a difference. Please see our new 2023 SPAC pins on page 33, which will recognize your contributions for the new year.
Talking about the new year, on Jan. 3, the U.S. Capitol will welcome seven new members of the Senate and 74 members of the House. Of the new members, 25 have no prior political experience. So, besides the 2022 NAPS-supported congressional candidates who already have expressed support for pro-NAPS positions, the other first-time members of Congress are a blank page on postal issues.
During their respective campaigns, they may have staked out positions on broad policy or ideological issues, but they have yet to state a position or view on issues crucial to the Postal Service and NAPS members. Our job is to help fill in the page for these new members, as well as for many returning members of Congress.
As this issue of The Postal Supervisor went to press, returning members were in the midst of organizing their legislative bodies for the 118th Congress, which starts on Jan. 3, 2023, and will end the first week of January 2025. The Senate Democrats continue to hold a slim majority, meaning Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) will continue to chair the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.
However, the Ranking Republican slot now will be occupied by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), as a result of the retirement of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). It was first thought Paul would claim the top Republican slot on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, but he did not. He chose Homeland Security instead.
Most of the shuffling is being done on the House side of the Capitol, where the Republicans, after a four-year break, have reclaimed the House majority by a slender (222-213) majority.
As predicted, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has secured the chairman’s gavel for the Committee on Oversight and Reform. As of our printing deadline, the House Democratic Caucus had yet to elect a ranking Democratic member for the committee. The contenders were Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA).
Obviously, elevation of House Republicans to majority status yielded a changing of the House guards: A new speaker, likely Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA); a new majority leader, Rep. Steve Scalise (LA); and a majority whip, Rep. Tom Emmer (MN). In addition, Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY) will continue to serve as chair of the Republican Conference.
The Democrats decided a generational change was in order, which resulted in Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY) being elected Democratic leader, Rep. Katherine Clark (MA) as Democratic whip and Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA) as chair of the Democratic Caucus. The Democrats decided to keep Rep. James Clyburn (SC) in the leadership structure as assistant Democratic leader.
Probably the most consequential leadership departure for the postal and federal community was the decision by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the immediate past House majority leader, to step down from his party role. Ever since Hoyer was first elected to Congress in a 1981 special election, he has been a fearless, passionate and successful advocate for the postal and federal community.
It is noteworthy that he always was at the final legislative negotiating table, no matter who occupied the White House or wielded the speaker’s gavel, to ensure there would be a comprehensive and affordable Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and secure the vitality of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
In recent years, Hoyer led the successful effort to oppose efforts to slash postal and federal employee benefits by $182 billion through, among other things, cost-of-living-adjustment freezes and changes to retirement benefits. He also has been a steadfast advocate for postal reform legislation and has fought for postal employees, including NAPS members.
His type of leadership and NAPS’ aggressive legislative agenda will be essential for the immediate future. The House Budget Committee Republicans already have signaled that federal and postal employee benefits are on the table. Higher FERS contributions toward retirement and basing future annuities on the highest-five consecutive years of salary, rather than the highest three, are under serious consideration for the soon-to-be introduced fiscal year 2024 House Budget Resolution.
Other proposals being discussed are reducing retirement COLAs, eliminating the FERS annuity supplement for retirees under the age of 62, reducing the earned interest of the Thrift Savings Plan G Fund and shifting more FEHBP costs onto enrollees.
It seems like old times! Your attendance at the NAPS Legislative Training Seminar, March 26-29, and your year-round legislative engagement are essential.