by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After a decade on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, James Bilbray is ready to go. “I turned 78 on May 19,” says Bilbray, the board’s chairman. “I’m getting old. I’m getting tired.” Yet Bilbray, whose term was extended after it expired last December, fears he’ll leave a vacuum at the USPS. The U.S. Senate has refused to confirm any of President Obama’s appointees to the Board of Governors since 2010.
The board, which is supposed to have 11 members, currently has only three: Postmaster General Megan Brennan; her deputy, Ronald Stroman; and Bilbray, a former Democratic congressman from Nevada who was appointed by George W. Bush. Unless something changes, there will be only two at the year’s end, when Bilbray’s extension is up. …
… Obama tried to remedy the situation by nominating five people to the USPS board in 2015. Two were Republicans: James Miller, Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Mickey Barnett, a former Republican state senator from New Mexico. Obama also named three Democrats: Stephen Crawford, a professor at George Washington University; David Bennett, a former aerospace executive; and David Shapira, chairman of the Giant Eagle supermarket chain.
The Senate has yet to vote, because there are holds on the nominations. Typically, senators don’t discuss such backroom maneuvers, but in this case one has: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. According to his senior policy adviser, Warren Gunnels, Sanders is blocking the two Republicans—Miller because he wants to privatize the Postal Service, and Barnett because of his ties to the payday loan industry. Sanders is also opposed to Crawford, who’s proposed cutting home delivery and instead allowing people to receive scanned copies of their letters electronically, as they do in Switzerland.
By putting a hold on three appointees, Sanders prevents all five from being confirmed, because the Republicans who control the Senate will hold a vote only on all five as a package. “Senator Sanders thinks no board is better than a bad board,” Gunnels says. It’s a position shared by the American Postal Workers Union, which has endorsed Sanders’s presidential run.