Postal board creates emergency committee

Facing the lack of a quorum, the U.S. Postal Service’s governing body has voted to allow itself to keep governing anyway. 

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USPS’s board voted in November to create a temporary emergency committee composed of the active governors to take the helm of the agency if the board lost its quorum, according to a notice in the Federal Register.

The board did end up losing its quorum last week, and is currently one short of the six governors needed to conduct business. Agency officials and senators are hopeful the Senate will confirm at least one of the five nominees ready for floor consideration in short order, but there’s no guarantee that will happen before the chamber breaks for 2014.

According to the Federal Register notice, the temporary emergency committee would have all “powers needed to provide for continuity of operations.” The board of governors, among other things, controls the Postal Service’s budget and makes long-term plans for the agency, which lost $5 billion in the most recent fiscal year.

“The resolution clarifies that the inability of the board to constitute a quorum does not inhibit or affect the authority of the governors then in office to exercise those powers vested solely in the governors,” the Federal Register notice also says.

A Postal Service spokesman said this was the first time the board had needed to approve such a measure, but added that the November vote also allows the board to set up temporary emergency committees in the future. Given this is the first time the board has created an emergency committee, the spokesman added that all the agency’s Federal Register notices receive thorough legal review.

“Given the loss of a quorum, the Postal Service filed a Federal Register notice published today advising the public of actions taken during the November 2014 Board of Governors meeting to ensure the Postal Service continues to operate, notwithstanding the loss of a board quorum,” the spokesman, Dave Partenheimer, said in a statement. “We urge the Senate to act on the nominations before the current Congress ends its session.”

The board held its last meeting on Dec. 5, with its next meeting not scheduled until next year. Both lawmakers and agency officials have suggested there would be few issues as long as the Senate confirms at least one governor before leaving this year.

But there’s at least some controversy surrounding two of the nominees – Mickey Barnett, the board’s most recent chairman, whose term expired last week, and Jim Miller.