‘Get used to me’: Postmaster Louis DeJoy talks Trump style and President Biden can’t do much about it
Louis De Joy does not care about the intricacies of Washington. The wealthy longtime businessman with an accent from the Outer New York borough prides himself on being a problem solver ready to disrupt a heavy bureaucracy. And he faces the potential legal issues.
In other words, the Postmaster General is perhaps the closest thing to former President Donald Trump left in the nation’s capital. But there is little that President Joe Biden can do about it.
“Get used to me,” DeJoy told critics in Congress at a hearing earlier this year.
As he nears his first birthday as head of the US Postal Service, DeJoy is under increasing pressure to step down. He has been criticized by lawmakers on both sides for changes to the agency that have resulted in service slowdowns. Democrats are particularly concerned that it will deliberately undermine the post office, which is essential to the conduct of elections and is one of the few federal agencies appreciated by the vast majority of Americans.
The scrutiny of DeJoy, 63, has intensified as the Justice Department investigates him for a political fundraiser at the North Carolina-based company he ran before his job at the post office.
“Postmaster General DeJoy wouldn’t be in his post if he worked for another company,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Oversight Committee.
DeJoy spokesman Mark Corallo said the Postmaster General “never knowingly violated” campaign finance laws.
DeJoy was born in Brooklyn and still retains his distinct accent, despite living a long life in Greensboro, North Carolina. After growing up in New York City, he took over his father’s declining small trucking business in the 1980s, turning it into New Breed Logistics, which he sold in 2014. His business offered logistics services on a scale. national, which critics hasten to note sometimes in competition with the post office.
DeJoy became Postmaster General shortly after Trump called the post office “a joke.” DeJoy implemented cost-cutting mechanisms that he said would help make the agency – which lost $ 9.2 billion in fiscal year 2020 – more tax-efficient. These included reducing employee overtime and removing mail sorting machines from postal facilities across the country.
“I am direct and decisive,” DeJoy said in a video message to employees last summer. “And I don’t mince my words.”
After the changes, the mail slowed down enough that Democrats were worried about an election crisis. The coronavirus pandemic caused an increase in postal voting in last year’s presidential election and widespread delays raised concerns that millions of ballots would not arrive on time.
A federal judge wrote in September that “The Postal Service’s actions are not the result of legitimate business concerns” but rather consistent with the Trump administration’s goals “to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy” of the elections.
In the end, while there were complaints of mail delays affecting some polls and counts, fears of widespread electoral disruption due to DeJoy’s larger changes turned out to be mostly unfounded. The Postal Service says it delivered at least 135 million ballots to or from voters – and delivered 99.89% of those mailed after September 4, before election day on November 4, in the seven days, as promised.
“Some people may have breathed a sigh of relief,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 200,000 post office workers, of the passing of the electoral test. “But as important as the mail ballots are … all mail is important.”
DeJoy nonetheless apologized to clients affected by service delays during last year’s holiday rush, and said his entire agency would “strive to do better” amid bipartisan criticism during a House hearing in February.
Such frustrations were new. A Pew Research Center poll released before DeJoy took over found that 91% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the post office.
“I think the intentions of the Postmaster General were good, but the implementation was much less so,” said John McHugh, a former Ohio Republican congressman who now heads the Package Coalition, a group of defense of businesses that depend on parcel delivery. “I would like to think he learned his lesson.”
The postal service has lost $ 87 billion in the past 14 fiscal years, according to the Government Accountability Office. While much of the budget concerns stem from a law of 2006 Forcing the agency to fully fund expensive retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, the post office was also hit by an inevitable drop in the volume of Internet-fed mail. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
In March, DeJoy announced a 10 year plan He says he can help the post office avoid $ 160 billion in additional losses expected over the next decade by reducing post office hours, relaxing delivery standards so some couriers take more time and other austerity measures.
The postal service is also looking to increase the cost of a first class stamp at 58 cents at the end of August.
DeJoy’s proposed overhaul could help the post office operate more like a business than a public service. But he’s bristling with suggestions that he’s a holdover from Trump with an ideology that’s now at odds with a Democratic administration.
“I am not a politically appointed person,” DeJoy said during the House hearing. “I have been selected by a bipartisan board of directors and would really appreciate it if you would get that cleared up.” When asked how long he would stay at his post, DeJoy replied, “A long time. Get used to me.
Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan, who organized a letter signed by 90 House Democrats in August calling for DeJoy’s impeachment, said the Postmaster General “is a guy who obviously has a lot of self-confidence. “.
“He doesn’t seem to understand that one of the few services offered by the federal government and enshrined in the Constitution is the postal service,” Pocan said, “and we have a higher obligation to do the job right.”
DeJoy can only be removed by a vote of the Postal Service Board of Directors, which has nine members in addition to DeJoy and the Deputy Postmaster General. The Senate recently approved three new members appointed by Biden. By law, however, no more than five of the nine voting board members can be from the same party, and two existing Democratic members have publicly supported DeJoy and his 10-year plan.
Biden could remove existing board members and replace them with his own appointees who could support DeJoy’s replacement – but he would have to justify doing so.
In the meantime, Congress can move forward with the post office changes with DeJoy still in charge. A bipartisan plan to remove requirements for the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health benefits, potentially saving the agency billions of dollars, is progressing. This is surprising because lawmakers have fought over this issue for years.
Republican supporters say the move would complement DeJoy’s 10-year plan rather than supplant it. A Democratic proposal that could challenge the reform of the Postmaster General remains at a standstill.
When Pocan urged him in another House hearing on what rank he would take as Postmaster General, DeJoy resisted answering, then finally replied: “An ‘A’ for bringing strategy, planning and effort. “
Recalling the exchange, Pocan joked that hardly anyone would give DeJoy’s performance an “A,” “Unless it was followed by a derogatory name.”