Critics of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy hoped Thursday's confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden's three nominees to the U.S. Postal Service's governing board would mark the beginning of the end for the embattled mail chief.
But even if Biden's picks are approved by the Senate, industry insiders suspect the board is unlikely to have enough votes to oust DeJoy, in part because its chairman -- Ron Bloom, a Trump-appointed Democrat -- has recently expressed strong support for the postmaster general.
"Right now, I think [DeJoy] is the proper man for the job," Bloom told The Atlantic this week. "He's earned my support, and he will have it until he doesn't. And I have no particular reason to believe he will lose it."
Tapped to lead the Postal Service last summer, DeJoy's tumultuous tenure has been marked by intense partisan scrutiny and an ill-fated reform effort that slowed mail service ahead of the 2020 election. Last month, DeJoy formally unveiled a controversial 10-year plan that would cut costs and lengthen delivery times, prompting renewed calls from Democrats for his dismissal.
Despite the sustained scrutiny of DeJoy, Bloom told lawmakers in February that "the board of governors believes the postmaster general, in very difficult circumstances, is doing a good job." Bloom, a former Obama administration official, has also taken on a key role in selling DeJoy's 10-year plan to Congress and other postal stakeholders.
"The current governors selected DeJoy, and given Chairman Bloom's recent hearing appearance, it looks like [DeJoy] still has very solid support there," Michael Plunkett, the president of PostCom, an alliance of postal consumers, told ABC News.
Thursday's confirmation hearing, being held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will consider Biden's choices to fill the board's three vacant seats: Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, a mail voting advocate; and Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union.
"We thank the president for nominating governors to the Board of Governors," a Postal Service spokesperson told ABC News about the board, which has the power to hire and fire the postmaster general. "The public interest and the Postal Service are best served by having governors who bring diverse insights, unique perspectives, leadership and professional experiences to help inform our decision making."
Although Biden's nominations reflect his first step toward reshaping the ailing postal service, his picks -- two Democrats and an independent -- are unlikely to satisfy some Democrats' calls for DeJoy's removal.
Shortly after Biden's inauguration, dozens of congressional Democrats urged him in a letter to fill the remaining three postal board vacancies "as expeditiously as possible" in order to "seriously consider whether the current Postmaster General is suitable to continue in his role." And a coalition of progressive groups recently circulated a petition saying that "to save our Postal Service, the Senate must swiftly confirm [Biden's] nominees -- and the Board must then fire and replace DeJoy."
The board's six sitting members -- comprised of two Democrats and four Republicans -- were all appointed by former President Donald Trump, and if Biden's three nominees are confirmed, Democrats or Democrat-appointed members would gain enough of a majority to unseat DeJoy. But Bloom could complicate the math for Democrats if his support for DeJoy continues.
DeJoy's apparent job security has prompted calls from some Democrats for more drastic measures. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., has requested that Biden remove all six current members -- including Bloom and the board's other Trump-appointed Democrat, Lee Moak -- and nominate an entirely new slate of governors.
"There should not be any toleration for [the board's] silence or complicity in overseeing these harmful policy changes that have also eroded the public trust in this agency," Duckworth wrote in a February letter to Biden.
Duckworth later followed up in March with a letter encouraging the Board of Governors to fire DeJoy after DeJoy unveiled his 10-year plan, writing that "failure to remove PMG DeJoy will confirm my worst fears about each member of this board of governors. Namely, that you are unwilling to admit error and thus incapable of fixing a grave mistake."
While presidents do not have the power to remove the postmaster, they do have the ability to remove members of the board -- but only "for cause."
"If the administration thinks there are things in the 10-year plan that constitute 'cause,' then maybe there is an argument," Plunkett told ABC News. "But I think such a move would meet with strong resistance."
Biden, when he was on the campaign trail, once derided DeJoy as "the president's guy" -- and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in February that Biden "believes the leadership can do better, and we are eager to have the board of governors in place." But nearly 100 days into his tenure as president, Biden has yet to publicly support calls for DeJoy's removal.
A former logistics company executive and Republican donor with close ties to Trump, DeJoy oversaw an overhaul of the agency last year that prompted accusations that he was undermining mail-in voting ahead of the presidential election. Few leaders from the Trump era garnered as much scrutiny -- and few are as inextricably linked to the president they served -- as DeJoy.
He has apologized repeatedly for slower delivery service during his time as postmaster general.
Having held his position since last June, DeJoy seems intent on remaining in the role, telling lawmakers in February, "Get used to me."