USPS Board of Governors to maintain powers despite lack of quorum

USPS Board of Governors to maintain powers despite lack of quorum

Governors at the US Postal Service have voted to maintain their decision-making powers despite the fact that the Senate has left the Board without a required quorum of six members. Last week the Postal Service saw its chairman Mickey Barnett coming to the end of his first term as a USPS Governor, leaving only three independent governors plus the Postmaster General and Deputy Postmaster General on the board.

Barnett is up for re-appointment, along with four other candidates to fill vacant seats on the Board, which is supposed to have nine members. So far the US Senate has not been able to confirm candidates put forward.

But in the mean time, the Postal Service issued a notice through the Federal Register yesterday to state that the governors set up a Temporary Emergency Committee to carry on the operations of the Board of Governors until quorum is once again reached.

The Committee comprises the remaining USPS governors — James H Bilbray, Louis J Giuliano and Ellen C Williams, along with the Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman.

As well as setting up the emergency committee, the USPS Board of Governors passed a resolution allowing the existing governors to keep their authority despite the Board lacking a quorum, so long as decisions are made by an absolute majority of governors in office.

In future, this new system of bypassing the need for a quorum will also take effect if any kind of emergency circumstances — such as death, incapacity or transport disruption — means the USPS Board of Governors cannot achieve a quorum.

The one exception for these temporary powers is in the removal of an Inspector General, which must be done with a full quorum.

“Serious constitutional concerns”

In its statement in the Federal Register, the Postal Service said preventing the governors from using their powers when the Board cannot form a quorum would cause “serious constitutional concerns”.

It said: “The powers to appoint and remove the Postmaster General, revoke delegated Board authority, and make pricing and classification decisions ensure that, as principal officers under the Constitution, the Governors have ‘ultimate control and authority’ over the Postal Service, and therefore that the Postal Service’s governance structure is constitutionally sound.”

The US Congress is currently in a “lame duck” session following the November elections, with the Senate set to change its political make-up when the next session begins in January, with the Republicans taking the majority instead of the Democrats.

Last week the Senate did manage to confirm two Postal Regulatory Commission commissioners — Tony Hammond and Nanci E Langley, who both return as commissioners having served before, respectively since 2002 and 2008.

It means the US postal regulator now has its five commissioners, including acting chairman Robert Taub, vice chairman Mark Acton and former chairman Ruth Goldway.


Today is expected to be the busiest day of the year for the US Mail, with the Postal Service predicting a 12% increase in package volumes compared to the same time last year as it delivers 470m packages between the end of November and Christmas Eve.

USPS is delivering seven-days-a-week in major cities and high volume areas, and will be out on Christmas Day itself.

Postmaster General Donahoe said: “Double digit increases in package business tell us America has placed their trust in us to get their packages delivered in time for holidays — and we’re committed to do just that.”

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