For those wondering what it would take to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from his post, there were some developments of note in the Senate yesterday. C-SPAN’s Craig Caplan reported:
[The] Senate today by unanimous consent confirmed Dan Tangherlini (D) and Derek Kan (R), President Biden’s two nominees to serve on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, which now has a majority of the Senate-confirmed Biden appointees on the USPS board.
For those who may need a refresher, let’s review how we arrived at this point.
It wasn’t long after DeJoy, a former Republican fundraiser and deputy RNC finance chair, became the postmaster general that he became highly controversial. He did, after all, face an FBI investigation over a campaign-finance scandal, among other ethics allegations. (DeJoy said in March that he's been cleared in the straw-donor matter.)
DeJoy’s problematic policies haven’t been well received either: The Republican has, among other things, implemented changes intended to make some mail service “permanently slower.”
President Joe Biden does not have the legal authority to fire the postmaster general, though he probably wishes he did. Early last year, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, “I think we can all agree — most Americans would agree — that the Postal Service needs leadership that can and will do a better job.” She added months later, “We are, of course, deeply troubled, continue to be deeply troubled, as many Americans are, by the earlier reporting on Postmaster General DeJoy’s potential financial conflicts of interest and take serious issues with the job he’s doing running the Postal Service.”
The governing board of the U.S. Postal Service has the power to remove DeJoy, and the confirmation of some Biden nominees to the board increased the odds that it might take such a step, but those efforts fell short: Ron Bloom, a Democratic Trump appointee, threw his support behind the postmaster general. Republican members on the board were in the minority, but with Bloom backing DeJoy, it didn’t matter.
So, Biden decided late last year to replace Bloom with Tangherlini, who served as the administrator of the General Services Administration during the Obama administration. The Democratic president also announced that Kan, a Republican and the former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, would replace Republican John Barger, an outgoing USPS board member.
Yesterday, those nominees proved so uncontroversial, that they were confirmed without opposition. It took six months, but they were confirmed easily.
Where does that leave us? The Postal Service’s governing board has nine members, but no party is permitted to have more than five members. That’s where this gets a little complicated.
It’s tempting to simply count members by party, which shows the board with four Democrats, four Republicans, and an independent. But with one of the Democrats having been appointed by Trump, and one of the Republicans having been appointed by Biden, the partisan lines aren’t as neat as they might appear.
The better way is to count members by president: Biden now has five appointees on the USPS board (three Democrats, one Republican, and one independent), while Trump has four appointees (three Republicans and a Democrat).
In other words, if we put party affiliations aside, Biden’s picks now have a majority, even if Democrats don’t. And while it’s possible that some of the incumbent president’s nominees will go their own way and ignore the White House’s wishes, if Biden’s appointees follow the Democratic president’s vision, this could spell trouble for DeJoy and his controversial postal plan.
Watch this space.
Update: I heard from the USPS public relations department, who sent me this written statement about yesterday's confirmation votes: "The U.S. Postal Service is pleased with yesterday’s action by the U.S. Senate to confirm nominees to the Postal Service Board of Governors. We look forward to working with Derek Kan and Daniel Tangherlini when they begin their terms as Governors, and thank the Administration for nominating them to serve on the Board. The public interest and the Postal Service are best served by a Board made up of well qualified individuals with diverse perspectives and experience."