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Democratic-Controlled Senate Offers New Opportunities
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
The first time I visited the U.S. Capitol was as a high school senior in 1975. I was enthralled by the building’s majesty and envied those who had the privilege to work within its confines. Eight years later, my wish came true when I was hired as a young congressional staff member for a freshman member of Congress.
Over the past 38 years, I have trekked the hallways of our nation’s temple to democracy countless times as a congressional staff member, a representative of different postal employee associations, a tourist and, most importantly, a citizen of the greatest country in the world. The sorrow, outrage and violation I experienced on Jan. 6, as incited insurrectionists desecrated one of this nation’s most sacred institutions, cannot be fathomed.
My prayers go out to law enforcement and National Guard units who secured our democracy, to the members of Congress who did not permit a failed act of sedition to stop them from performing their constitutionally prescribed duty and to the anonymous congressional staff members who persevered and served those members of Congress under the threat of imminent harm. God bless America and God bless those who sustain it.
On the day before the nauseating events of Jan. 6, voters in Georgia elected two new Democratic senators: Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. The election yielded the Senate breakdown of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and 2 Independents. The 2 Independent members caucus with Democrats, providing a 50-50 tie.
On Jan. 20, Democrats assumed majority status in the Senate when Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president. The vice president serves as the presiding officer of the Senate and is able to break tie votes. The new Senate majority has important legislative and governance consequences for the Postal Service and its employees.
First, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) has assumed chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, succeeding Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). Peters has been extremely critical of the USPS’ operational actions that have compromised national mail service, especially mail delays to his Michigan constituents. He believes the USPS withheld information from him during a late-summer investigatory hearing.
The combination of Peters leading the Senate panel with jurisdiction over the Postal Service and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who also has been extremely critical of recent USPS leadership, retaining the gavel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee will be consequential for the Postal Service. It can be anticipated that Peters’ and Maloney’s critiques of the summertime USPS operational directives will guide their approach to committee oversight, as well as potential legislation. NAPS’ legislative team already has engaged with the committees on these activities.
Second, postal governance will be influenced by the new Senate majority. President Biden has the authority to nominate individuals to assume positions subject to Senate confirmation, such as members to the USPS Postal Board of Governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission. However, a Republican majority could have inhibited confirmation of Biden-preferred candidates.
Inasmuch as the Senate now is controlled by Democrats, it should be anticipated that the current three vacancies on the Board of Governors will reflect more keenly the postal perspectives of President Biden. Obviously, these views are quite different than those of his predecessor.
Therefore, it is conceivable that, because Republicans presently hold a 4-2 majority on the Board of Governors, the three vacancies subject to Senate confirmation could be filled by Democrats. This would result in a 5-4 Democratic majority. The composition of the board has implications for PMG Louis DeJoy. Former President Trump recognized that fact.
In mid-December, Trump nominated another Republican to the Board of Governors, potentially solidifying Republican control of the Postal Service for at least the next two years. However, the 116th Congress adjourned on Jan. 2 without considering the nomination.
Third, over the past few years, House-passed, pro-postal legislation died on the doorstep of the Senate. Now, it is hopeful that such legislation will receive a more favorable reception. During the past years, there have been a number of Republicans in the Senate who promoted postal issues, but they were not nearly enough to bring the legislation to the Senate floor. As always, NAPS will work in nonpartisan fashion to promote legislation that benefits NAPS members.
In this light, our reimagined Legislative Training Seminar (LTS), which will be outlined in the days to come, will provide a unique and important opportunity to advance legislation to provide fairness to all EAS-level postal employees, safeguard the operational integrity of the Postal Service and equip the agency with the tools, products and flexibility to remain viable for years to come. Honoring the health and safety of our NAPS members, the lingering pandemic precludes an in-person conference and in-person, face-to-face meetings with our elected representatives and their staff members.
Finally, I must pay tribute to a revered NAPS leader and fearless legislative advocate who died last month, Stanley Gold. In the mid-1980s, while I was staffing on the now-extinct House Post Office and Civil Service Commit-tee, former NAPS Legislative Counsel Bob McLean introduced me to Stanley. I recall his integrity, postal knowledge and unwavering advocacy on behalf of postal supervisors.
Stanley played both sides of the political aisle effectively. In recognition of his labor on behalf of NAPS members, the “Stanley Gold Award for Legislative Excellence” is present-ed annually to a NAPS member who best exemplifies Stanley’s dedication to legislative advocacy. It is noteworthy that, in 2010, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) payed tribute to Stanley on the floor of the House of Representatives.
At his January funeral, a letter of condolence from retired Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was read. She mourned with Stanley’s family, via Zoom, the day after the funeral. Indeed, we are midgets who rest on the shoulders of giants.