Joe Biden Could Fix the Post Office on Day 1

The coming confirmation battles no one is talking about

Conservatives love to talk about the “War on Christmas” on cue every December. It’s usually in reference to inane nonsense like people saying “happy holidays” or the color of Starbucks cups or whatever, but there was an actual war on Christmas this past year. That war was waged by millionaire GOP donor and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

As President Trump himself admitted, DeJoy’s deliberate sabotage of the mail was a futile attempt to hold up mail-in ballots that ended up making the difference for Joe Biden. But a side effect of that failed endeavor was that our Christmas presents arrived a month late, even after paying extra for priority shipping.

You get the picture.

The main idea of government is that we need it to have a functioning society. Government is supposed to take care of the everyday menial things we all take for granted, like food safety inspection and vaccine distribution and air traffic control and mail delivery. When any of those get fucked up — as we learned during the 2018-2019 government shutdown — it negatively affects millions of people. It isn’t sexy by any means, but fixing the US Post Office should be near the top of President-elect Biden’s first 100-day agenda, especially now that he has a Democratic Senate majority.

The arduous task of replacing Louis DeJoy

(Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Photo: Screenshot, Fox 8 Greensboro/Fair Use)

The Republican-controlled US Postal Service Board of Governors appointed DeJoy in May of 2020, and the logistics CEO immediately went to work dismantling sorting machines that postal workers depend on to get mail to people on time. He also forbade postal workers from working overtime to deliver mail. This led to disastrous consequences, like people waiting for weeks to get medication, paychecks, and bills paid.

Due to the structure of the USPS, Biden can’t simply appoint a new Postmaster General — he has to place five new appointees on the USPS Board of Governors. America appears to have very nearly dodged a bullet in that Trump’s lame-duck appointment of Republican Roy A. Bernardi to the USPS Board of Governors last month has not yet been confirmed by the full Senate. Had he been confirmed, Bernardi would have been the fifth Republican on the nine-member board, establishing a 5-1 conservative majority and all but assuring DeJoy would be in his role through at least October of 2022, the soonest one of Trump’s appointees would end their term (no party can have more than five seats at a time).

As of this writing, we still have to endure one more week of the Trump administration. The Senate has adjourned until January 19, but may convene sooner given that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is trying to force the Senate back into session to conduct President Trump’s impending and unprecedented second impeachment trial.

In the meantime, Senators-elect Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) and Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) are waiting to be sworn in as the 49th and 50th additions to the Senate Democratic Caucus, which would allow Democrats a paper-thin majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.

Georgia has until January 22 to certify the results of the January 5 runoff elections, so it’s possible that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will have a few days, even with Joe Biden as president, to dictate what business the Senate takes up. Given McConnell’s penchant for ramming through Trump’s judicial appointments at breakneck speed — even during the lame duck period — it’s likely McConnell could force a confirmation vote on Bernardi’s appointment to the USPS Board of Governors before Ossoff and Warnock are sworn in.

However, if Ossoff and Warnock are sworn in before Bernardi’s confirmation vote, Bernardi’s appointment is likely kaput. This would allow Biden to appoint five USPS Governors of his own choosing, given that there are four other vacancies aside from the slot Bernardi was appointed to fill. The new 5-member Democratic majority could appoint a new Postmaster General to replace DeJoy, and that person could replace the sorting machines, reinstitute overtime for postal workers, and get the mail back up and running.

Strengthening the USPS for the long term

(Former President George W. Bush. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In December of 2006 — the lame duck period after the Republicans lost their majorities in both the House and the Senate — President George W. Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act into law. That legislation requires the US Postal Service to pre-pay all of its employees healthcare benefits for future retirees 75 years in advance. This is not required of any other federal agency. Between 2007 and 2016, $54.8 billion of financial losses the USPS sustained were directly due to that law.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill to undo this in 2020, though the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take it up. However, with Democrats once again in control of the Senate and the White House, they could undo this law and get the USPS back on its feet.

None of this will happen on its own, however. Whether or not Biden’s appointees to the USPS Board of Governors are confirmed, and whether or not the 2006 law that gutted the post office gets repealed, are up to how often we call our senators to demand it.