Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Senate committee holds hearing on PRC nominees

Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management held a hearing on five nominees to various positions, including Ashley Poling and Ann C. Fisher to be Commissioners at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) as well as Catherine Bird to be General Counsel Federal Labor Relations Authority, and Rainey R. Brandt and Shana Frost Martini to be Associate Judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

With regards to the two PRC nominees, the nominees were questioned by various committee members on a range of topics from the 10-year rate review, improving service, data collection and monitoring, challenges facing Postal Service and what each nominee would prioritize if confirmed.

Poling who currently serves as the Director of Governmental Affairs & Senior Counsel for Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI) on HSGAC testified to the importance of maintaining strong service quality and improving upon it for postal customers as a commissioner. She further stated that when it comes to the PRC’s oversight of the agency, monitoring needs to improve by ensuring USPS meet service performance targets. To that end, Poling stated that USPS must be held in compliance and that that duty falls on both the PRC and Congress, both of which will need the most accurate data possible from the agency to do their jobs effectively.

Poling testified that her background with various stakeholders was advantageous and discussed her experience with rate setting, service, and modernization as beneficial to serving on the PRC. When prompted about the challenges facing the Postal Service, Polling pinpointed the pre-funding mandate as the primary impediment. She signaled that the White House Postal Task Force report’s (link here) suggestion of using ‘vested liability’ to reduce the burden could be an avenue to improve finances.

Fischer, who currently serves as PRC’s Public Affairs and Government Relations Director consistently referenced the Postal Service’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) and the need to re-examine the USPS monopoly of the mailbox and the obligation to deliver everywhere in the country. On the issue of improving service quality, Fischer cited the need to re-examine the USO and improve data collection, annual compliance, and constituent relations. She called for a nationwide survey of the public to determine what they want from the Postal Service and highlighted the consideration of moving to 5-day delivery rather than 6, without necessarily supporting it. Fischer also noted that the PRC has certain tools to address rates and costs that do not require legislative input, such as the potential for movement among classes for market-dominant and competitive products that might allow USPS the potential for more rate-setting flexibility, but that would require both a willing Postal Board of Governors and a willing body of Commissioners to approve such a request.

Fischer noted that the rate cap from the 2006 postal reform bill was helpful as it provided stability and consistency for large mailers, and believed that setting rates at the consumer price index (CPI) was adequate at the time, but the Great Recession meant that the rate setting left USPS constrained and unable to make its payments. She also wished that there would have been language requiring more transparency should USPS institute nationwide changes. She noted that rate reviews in recent years have been difficult, especially as the PRC previously only had four members, though it is now moving faster with five. She committed to finishing the most recent review as soon as possible for public comment and input.

When both nominees were asked to identify challenges facing the Postal Service, Polling highlighted how much has changed since the 2006 mandate and declining mail volume and referenced stakeholder consensus, the prefunding mandate, rates, service and modernization as chief impediments. Fisher suggested that the Great Recession and prefunding mandate were unforeseen challenges and emphasized the need for more transparency from the Postal Service. In addition, she stated her belief that the 10-year rate review should have been conducted sooner. She went on to praise the White House Postal Task Force for its inclusion of reexamining the USO, specifically highlighting options like five-day delivery.

In closing the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Lankford took the time to end the hearing by praising postal employees and specifically highlighted letter carriers by saying, “there’s also a tremendous group of letter carriers and postal employees that serve in our state that are remarkable public servants and we are very proud of them and partial to them.”

HSGAC will vote on advancing the nominees in the coming days before full Senate consideration in the coming weeks and months.

Return to Legislative Updates


The free NALC apps for smartphones provide convenient access to tools and information about issues affecting active and retired letter carriers. Information on downloading and using the apps is in our apps section.