DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy offered a public apology before a House committee on Wednesday for recent mail delivery delays during the peak holiday season. 

DeJoy, making his first appearance before the House Oversight and Reform Committee since a combative hearing last summer over his cost-cutting measures, acknowledged that the Postal Service experienced delivery delays that were particularly pronounced late last year during the holidays.

But DeJoy on Wednesday defended his efforts to enact changes at the long-beleaguered agency and told lawmakers that he plans to unveil a strategic plan within the next few weeks.

“We must acknowledge that during this peak season, we fell far short of meeting our service targets,” DeJoy said in his opening statement before the Oversight panel.

“Too many Americans were left waiting for weeks for important deliveries of mail and packages. This is unacceptable and I apologize to those customers who felt the impact of our delays,” DeJoy said, pledging that the Postal Service would “strive to do better in our service to the American people and we will do better.”

With more people shopping online during the pandemic — especially during the holiday season — the Postal Service experienced a historically high volume of packages late last year that led to widespread delivery delays. The Postal Service said in December that the delays were exacerbated by a shortage in postal workers due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and “capacity challenges” with airlifts and trucking. 

DeJoy has said the Postal Service tried to take preemptive measures such as hiring thousands of seasonal workers and buying the maximum amount of air capacity, but acknowledged Wednesday that the agency still fell short of its delivery targets. 

DeJoy, a major GOP donor who previously worked as an executive at a logistics company, began enacting measures like removing mail sorting machines after becoming postmaster general in June. 

He then put further cost-cutting initiatives on hold until after the November elections to address critics’ allegations that the changes were meant to undermine mail-in ballots during last year’s elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeJoy confirmed that his upcoming strategic plan may include changes to first-class mail, including transporting less of it by planes and lengthening the current two-day standard.

“If we in fact get the relief that we need in terms of time, we will put more mail on the ground,” DeJoy said in response to questioning from Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), noting that a “big, big reason” for the holiday season delays were a result of air carriers underperforming.

At the same time, DeJoy acknowledged that in order to get mail in three days over a long distance such as from New York to California, “we can’t do that on a truck.”

“It sounds like your solution to the problems you’ve identified is just surrender,” Raskin replied. “You’re basically saying because the mail has been late under your leadership, we’re just going to change the standards and build it into the system that it will be late.”

DeJoy shot back, saying the first-class delivery standard was underperforming long before he became postmaster general. 

“It’s not reliable. You can sit here and think that I’m bringing all this damage to the Postal Service. But as I said earlier, the place was operationally faulty because of a lack of investment and lack of ability to move forward, which is what we’re trying to do,” DeJoy said. 

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is aiming to move forward with legislation to help ease some of the Postal Service’s financial burdens, including eliminating the requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits, requiring postal workers to enroll in Medicare upon retirement and bolstering transparency on the agency’s performance. 

Ron Bloom, who worked in the Obama administration and was nominated to serve on the Postal Service Board of Governors by former President Trump, testified under questioning from Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) that he did not believe DeJoy was trying to slow down election mail last year by removing mailboxes and sorting machines.

Bloom became chairman of the board earlier this month after his predecessor, Robert Duncan, stepped down from the post. Duncan, a former Republican National Committee chairman, remains on the board.

All of the current six members of the Postal Service Board of Governors were nominated to their positions by Trump. Two of the current members, including Bloom, are Democrats.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked Bloom about the comments from another member of the Board of Governors, John Barger, saying last September that “the board is tickled pink” with DeJoy’s impact.

“I’m generally not tickled pink by things,” Bloom testified, but confirmed that the board thinks DeJoy “is doing a good job.”

Biden announced three nominees to fill the vacancies on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors on Wednesday, after many Democrats clamoring for DeJoy’s ouster urged the president in recent weeks to act quickly so that they would have a majority that could replace the postmaster general.

The nominees, who will require Senate confirmation, are former Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman, former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union Anton Hajjar, and CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute Amber McReynolds.

Biden’s nominees, if confirmed, would add gender and racial diversity to a Board of Governors whose current members are all white men. 

Hours before Biden’s announcement, progressive Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) lamented at Wednesday’s hearing that the current board “looks like a millionaire white boys’ club,” noting that many postal workers are racial minorities. 

DeJoy said in response that “the Postal Service would love to have a diverse board that reflects its population, but this is not something that’s within our power.” 

The Postal Service Board of Governors has the power to select or remove a postmaster general, who cannot be directly removed by the president.

But DeJoy signaled that he doesn’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon.

When asked by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) how long he planned to remain in his post, DeJoy replied: “A long time. Get used to me.”

Updated at 6:26 p.m.

Tags Ayanna Pressley Carolyn Maloney Donald Trump Gerry Connolly Hearing Jamie Raskin Jen Psaki Jim Cooper Jody Hice Joe Biden Louis DeJoy mail delays postmaster general U.S. Postal Service USPS USPS

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