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Politics & Government

DeJoy Testifies Before House Panel, Biden Nominates 3 To USPS Board

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Did you get Christmas cards in January? Is it taking a long time to get that birthday present to your friend across the country? The mail has been delayed over the last few months, and Congress wants to know why. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faced lawmakers on Capitol Hill yesterday. Here's Representative Bob Gibbs of Ohio.

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BOB GIBBS: I won't send payments through the mail anymore. That's how much confidence I've lost in the system.

MARTIN: DeJoy apologized for the delays but said even the plan Congress has to help may not be enough.

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LOUIS DEJOY: I would suggest that we are on a death spiral. We cannot - even with this legislation. We cannot continue to lose money.

MARTIN: NPR's Brian Naylor has been following this and joins us now. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So what were lawmakers' biggest specific concerns, and did DeJoy take responsibility?

NAYLOR: So, yeah, there was, you know, criticism from both sides of the aisle. They cited those, you know, late Christmas cards and other mail delays, complaints from constituents over bills arriving late, leading to late payments and late fees. And you heard Congressman Gibbs say he's given up on the Postal Service.

DeJoy was apologetic, but he also got kind of combative at times. He said the status quo was not acceptable, but he also said the problems existed before he got there.

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DEJOY: You could 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 lack of investment and lack of ability to move forward, which is what we're trying to do.

NAYLOR: So you heard him say before death spiral. That's quite a phrase. He said the service lost more than $9 billion last year and is projected to lose some 160 billion over the next 10 years.

MARTIN: I mean, why? And what did he say he wants to do about it?

NAYLOR: Well, so he is in the midst of developing a 10-year strategic plan for the Postal Service. He didn't give many details about it and said it would be released in the next two weeks or so. He said that, you know, it may lead to slower deliveries of some first-class mail beyond a local area.

One congressman, Democrat Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, said DeJoy's plan didn't sound like it would work. He said the Postal Service is competing with FedEx and UPS and Amazon, and, quote, "that spells trouble." And he said the solution can't be to just not deliver the mail.

DeJoy is working with lawmakers on legislation as well that would end a mandate that makes the Postal Service prepay the health costs of its future retirees, something that has also added to their red ink.

MARTIN: But I heard you say in his plan to fix the slow mail, the mail might get slower. So that's going to be complicated.

NAYLOR: Yeah.

MARTIN: Let's talk about the future, though, because the Biden administration is already sort of paving the way for his ouster - DeJoy - right?

NAYLOR: Well, so, yes, perhaps. You know, Democrats have been very critical of DeJoy all along because before he was postmaster, he was a big Republican donor and gave millions to Republicans, including former President Donald Trump.

And now there are potentially three new members of the Postal Board of Governors that Biden announced yesterday - Ron Stroman, who is the highest-ranking - who was the highest-ranking Black official at the post office before resigning last year; Amber McReynolds, who heads the National Vote at Home Institute, which advocates for mail-in voting; and Anton Hajjar, a former postal union official.

If confirmed, they would, well, A, add some diversity to the board, which is made up of all men, currently. And it would also give Democrats, effectively, a majority on the board. It's the board that makes the points and can fire the postmaster general. With a majority now, they could conceivably replace DeJoy. DeJoy says he's not going to go anywhere on his own and that - even though - replacing him wouldn't solve the Postal Service's problems.

MARTIN: NPR's Brian Naylor, thank you.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.