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NAPS Shares Its Priorities With Biden-Harris Transition Team
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
The incoming Biden-Harris administration inherits a U.S. Postal Service with expansive capabilities and resilient public trust. These are well-earned attributes, despite that, over the past year, the institution was dragged into political warfare, challenged by a relentless pandemic and battered by a continued decline in mail volume.
Postal Service employees, notwithstanding the well-documented and judicially confirmed operational complications, effectively and securely “delivered democracy” for America. Moreover, the 2020 holiday mailing season, once again, demonstrated the USPS effectively provides merchants a reliable acceptance, processing and delivery network. At the same time, many postal competitors were hamstrung, unable to calibrate capacity to volume.
On Jan. 20, President-Elect Joe Biden will invoke the solemn presidential oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” As NAPS members know, America’s postal system is embedded in our nation’s founding document. Hence, the preservation, protection and defense of our postal operation is a presidential imperative. As you may recall, in the October 2020 issue of The Postal Supervisor, candidate Biden articulated the need for a viable Postal Service.
In late November, NAPS was invited to meet with the Biden-Harris transition team. Shortly thereafter, via a video conference, NAPS shared its perspectives on the short- and long-term needs of the Postal Service and EAS-level postal employees. The four-member transition team is led by former Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman.
During the meeting, NAPS underscored the importance of promptly filling the three vacancies on the USPS Board of Governors with individuals who share Biden’s views regarding the importance of the agency and its universal service obligation, commitment to work with the administration to secure financial relief for the agency and pledge to implement innovative, profitable products and services. In addition, NAPS highlighted the importance of legislation to provide EAS-level postal employees with a more equitable process for negotiating compensation and afford all EAS-level employees a right to appeal disciplinary actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
However, no matter how postal-friendly a White House is, postal oversight and legislative repair rest with the U.S. Congress. As a result of the November elections, the House will retain its Democratic majority, albeit much slimmer.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) remains chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. On Nov. 26, Maloney was my guest on the NAPS Chat, at which time she spoke about her oversight plans, views of postal governance and legislative plans for 2021. That episode is available at www.naps.org/NAPS-Chat. Maloney expressed strong support for NAPS’ legislative priorities; we intend to work with her committee in advancing our priorities.
As this issue went to press, the Senate majority hinged on two Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections. Both Senate seats were contested in November, but no candidate won over 50% of the vote, the winning threshold required under Georgia law. Should either or both Republican incumbents win the runoff, Republicans would retain the majority. Consequently, Sen. Robert Portman (R-OH) would succeed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
However, should the Democratic candidates win both contests, a 50-50 tie in the Senate would yield the majority to the Democrats on Jan. 20 when Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president and her California Senate replacement is seated. The vice president presides in the Senate and, consequently, breaks a tie.
Under this circumstance, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) would become chairman of the committee. The Senate is crucial to postal governance as it is empowered to confirm presidential nominees to the USPS Board of Governors. In a more general sense, the thinner majorities in both the House and the Senate make bipartisan and legislative coalition-building essential to promoting postal legislation.
Nevertheless, some of the most consequential decisions can be generated beyond the glare of the spotlight. On the last day of November, after four years, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) finally adopted rules to modify the system for calculating postage rates. During the four-year deliberative process, the PRC determined the existing rate system failed to sustain the financial viability of the Postal Service and that service standards were not maintained.
The November PRC ruling provides the Postal Service with enhanced rate-adjustment authority to account for the decline in mail density (i.e., increased delivery points and decreased mail volume). Also, the PRC decision allows the Postal Service to adjust rates to account for its mandated retirement amortization payments.
The PRC ruling grants the agency more rate authority for postal products that fail to meet their costs. And finally, the PRC decision requires the USPS to report, as part of its Annual Compliance Report, detailed data relating to service standards, changes to those standards and detailed information regarding planned and ongoing significant cost-reduction initiatives.