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Rep. Mark Meadows: Providing Bipartisan Support for Postal Legislation
By Karen Young
On June 6, NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs Bob Levi conducted his weekly NAPS Chat podcast with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). Levi introduced Meadows by describing him as a committed conservative and astute listener to all sides of legislative debate. Meadow’s partnership with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Operations (with jurisdiction over the Postal Service), is noteworthy regarding their work developing postal reform legislation, Levi observed.
Meadows has been a leading proponent of a viable, universal Postal Service. He represents a rural district in North Carolina that is reliant on the USPS. Levi asked Meadows what impact the Postal Service and universal service have on his district in the era of e-commerce.
“The contact most Americans have with a government or quasi-government entity is the Postal Service,” Meadows responded. “They look at the USPS as not just delivering mail, packages and e-commerce; many postmasters and postal employees are part of the family. People go to their local post office to not just share the news of the day, but gather in fellowship.”
Meadows said it’s imperative to have a long-term postal system that’s sustainable and flexible enough to meet the demands of e-commerce. “We need to put in the political capital, in a bipartisan way, so we can get legislation across the finish line,” he stressed. “The great thing about Elijah Cummings and Gerry Connolly that I appreciate about them is they always are honest and represent their constituencies in a forthright way. They allow us to negotiate in an appropriate manner to hopefully get something done on behalf of the American people.”
Levi asked Meadows about his role as chairman of the Freedom Caucus, which is based on a conservative agenda. Meadows explained he created the caucus when he was new to Congress to get some leverage. “Even though my Democratic colleagues may not agree with my position, what they do admire is I am willing to stand up for principles whether it’s against Democrats or Republicans. When the caucus signs on to legislation, it gives it the conservative ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ and allows other conservatives to sign onto legislation.”
Levi asked Meadows if there was any tension with him being a proponent of postal reform and members of the Freedom Caucus who may not be too keen on stabilizing a government agency. Meadows was frank in agreeing there is tension; some members support privatization of the Postal Service and some want to have it declared bankrupt.
“I’ve looked at this as a way we can make sure we keep it sustainable,” he said. “They’ve given me a little bit of grace and are allowing me to try and get the most conservative bill across the finish line. Some of them will reluctantly support it even though it may not be their first priority in terms of a legislative agenda.”
Regarding Meadows’ and the Freedom Caucus’ close relationship with President Trump, Levi asked him what the president’s views might be on the Postal Service and Meadows’ efforts to sustain the agency.
Meadows shared that he’s had a number of conversations personally with the president about the Postal Service. “I think, from his perspective,” Meadows explained, “he wants to make sure a postal system actually does survive. I can’t imagine him supporting anything that would undermine the long-term ability of the Postal Service to provide services to rural America, as well as those in the cities and suburbs.
“That being said, I think he believes we’ve got to find a profitable margin and some of those areas are not profitable. When you look at rural America, there are areas not profitable, but just because they’re not doesn’t mean we can ignore those constituents. We’ve got to find a way to make sure we serve them. At the end of the day, I see a combination of reform and perhaps some assistance in some areas to ensure everyone can get mail delivered to their homes.”
Levi referred to the report issued by the Task Force on the U.S. Postal System this past December and asked if there had been further conversations with the task force. Meadows said he has had conversations with the task force and indicated to members he doesn’t see the report as something that can be implemented. “We’ll try and take the best from their report,” he affirmed, “and craft it into a piece of legislation that hopefully addresses the lion’s share of that, but also does the American people and the president a service in terms of making sure we don’t have to come back and revisit this issue.”
Levi touched on remarks made at the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s April 30 hearing on the financial condition of the Postal Service. Meadows had expressed frustration at the lack of a 10-year plan from the Postal Service and commented he could turn from being an advocate to being an adversary.
“I told the Postmaster General that I want a 10-year plan that makes the agency viable,” he stressed. “I want our postal workers and the whole postal system not to have to worry about what Congress is doing tomorrow or the next day or the next day; let’s get it done. If I’m going to take a tough vote, let’s make it one tough vote—not multiple tough votes.
“I’m optimistic that, at the end of the day, we’ll be able to find some common ground. It would take a lot for me not to be an advocate and go the other way. One of those things that would get me to go the other way is five-day service. The only troubling and negative tone I would give you right now is I continue to hear that the Board of Governors and the Postmaster General are considering five-day service or a trigger on five-day service. There is bipartisan opposition to that.”
Levi pointed out that FedEx recently was considering going to seven-day delivery for parcels and reclaiming about 2 million addresses from the Postal Service. Meadows said he met with Connolly and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) over the past 48 hours about a bill they’re trying to get out of committee. “I said I would support seven-day delivery of both parcels and mail,” he said, “but I’m not going to go seven days for parcels, five-day delivery, then a trigger that, candidly, is not really well thought out.
“We’re getting into a 24-hours a day, seven days a week kind of e-commerce environment. And to pull back on that is ignoring the obvious.”
Levi asked Meadows if six-day delivery—at the minimum—is part of the universal service obligation. “Yes,” Meadows responded. “And that puts me in conflict with some of my Republican colleagues. Universal service really is a six-day foundational principle in terms of what we need to count on. If it’s not six days, what makes it five? Why not three or two? At this point, six days is where we need to be.”
“And particularly with regard to rural areas,” Levi added. “Yes,” Meadows responded. “My district is affected the most. I say ‘my district,’ but districts like mine—all of rural America, where the post offices are least profitable. Getting a package to my mom, who is two miles off the beaten path, is not profitable; I get that. But there’s an obligation from a federal standpoint that we have to deliver there. It’s key whether you live in a city or a suburb or out in the sticks that we provide those services.”
“That’s the commonality among Cummings, Connolly and you,” Levi affirmed. “Cummings represents an inner-city urban area, Connolly represents a suburban Washington area and you represent a rural North Carolina area. The common interest is providing accessible, affordable mail service.”
“One hundred percent!” Meadows declared. “If you can make Elijah Cummings, Gerry Connolly and Mark Meadows happy, most of America will be happy with that.”
“In addition to the legislative common ground you have,” Levi continued, “you actually get along well with each other and people don’t understand that.” “They’re dear friends,” Meadows reiterated. “I care about them personally.”
“A personal reflection here,” Levi added. “Not enough people know about those types of issues—that you can fight like cats and dogs over legislation and be very strong partisans, but relationships that build friendships and help bridge gaps really are invaluable.”
“They are,” Meadows stressed. “I respect Elijah Cummings and Gerry Connolly. There are people who underestimate Chairman Cummings; he’s wickedly smart and strategic in everything he does. But what I like the best about him is he never will lie to me. He’s shot straight with me at times when it would have been easier for him to equivocate; that’s what I appreciate about him the most.”
Levi asked when Meadows thought a postal bill would be introduced. “I’m hopeful we can introduce something next week,” he said, “and proceed quickly to markup in the next two to three weeks. Everything suggests that’s where we’re going to be. June is the key month.”
Asked if there would be a hearing, Meadows replied they hope to go straight to markup. “We hope to take a bill very similar to the bill that had unanimous support out of committee last time,” he explained, “make a few modifications and have that come in as a manager’s amendment to see if we still can keep bipartisan support for that. That’s the real question: What will that manager’s amendment look like?”
Levi concluded the chat by saying NAPS represents the front-line postal managers. “They do,” Meadows interjected, “and they do a fine job, by the way.”
“What advice would you give NAPS members seeking to ensure a viable, accessible, affordable and universal Postal Service and help you secure meaningful, constructive postal reform?” Levi asked.
“There are two things they need to do,” Meadows said. “Pick up the phone and personally call their member of Congress and their senators. And by picking up the phone, I mean personally calling and asking to speak to their member of Congress and telling them, ‘We need help.’
“If they have a personal relationship, that’s really good. Even if they don’t have a personal relationship, they still should call. And share their plea for help with their fellow employees. The more phone calls the better; if Congress can’t see the light, they can feel the heat.
“The second thing is when there are compromises—and both sides are going to end up compromising—applaud those compromises instead of complaining. If they complain, complain privately. I’ve suggested I’m willing to compromise on a few things; I think my Democratic colleagues are willing to compromise. Those things needed to be applauded.
“If they can do those two things, I think it will help.”