NAPS Election Update – Nov. 3, 2010
Riding a huge wave of anger and anti-government sentiment, the GOP reclaimed control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, seizing potentially as many as 65 House seats. While not regaining the Senate, Republicans are on track to take back 6 to 8 seats, giving Democrats a slimmer majority.
Poised to become the next House speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) said: “Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people.” Exit polls (by ABC and AP) on Tuesday underscored significant voter discontent with government.
Get Ready for Gridlock
As a result of Tuesday’s results, the American electoral map, especially in the rust belt and rural areas of the country, dramatically changed. Many of the Democrats elected to the House for the first time in 2008 were swept out of office.
How the message sent by voters on Tuesday will translate into new legislation and policy is murky. If initial olive branches of consensus by the President and Republican leaders falter, Washington gridlock is the most likely outcome. While Tuesday’s outcome is a huge victory for the Republicans (the Republican House majority will be the largest since 1928), it is not a governing majority, even in the Congress, with Democrats still barely holding the Senate.
As Ezra Klein commented in the Washington Post: “Republicans don’t fully control Congress, so they don’t have enough power to be blamed for legislative outcomes. But Democrats don’t control the House and they don’t have a near-filibuster proof majority in the Senate, so they can’t pass legislation. Republicans, in other words, are not left with the burden of governance, and Democrats are not left with the power to govern. Republicans don’t have to be responsible, and Democrats can’t do it for them.”
New House Chairs Prepare to Take Control
What is certain, with Republicans gaining control of the House, is that the chairmanships of all House committees and subcommittees will change hands. And as the Postal Service prepares to see its leadership change hands from outgoing PMG Jack Potter to incoming PMG Pat Donahoe, that could mean the opportunity for a fresh start with a new set of Republican leaders. Whether Republicans are really serious about solving the Postal Service’s problems — or more intent on simply blaming the Obama administration for postal distress — remains to be seen.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) will take over from Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY) the chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal civil service and postal issues. Issa in September released a prospective outline of his priorities for the committee, focusing on issues like stimulus spending, health care oversight, federal agency performance management and domestic terrorism. He can be expected to issue a stream of subpoenas to Administration witnesses in pursuit of vigorous oversight of the Obama administration, including targets of potential government fraud, waste and abuse, like TARP and stimulus funding.
Issa is expected to also take aim at the Postal Service and its size and profitability, telling the Washington: “There are too many postal workers, too many distribution centers, too many post offices and a reluctance to make those changes.” Issa in recent months has opposed proposals to grant the Postal Service more flexibility to close post offices, set delivery schedules, raise prices above the rate of inflation and adjust its retiree pension obligations. In September he published a Washington, depicting legislation to adjust retiree pension obligations as a “government bailout.” He also made remarks at the Heritage Foundation that were supportive of significant downsizing in the Postal Service, including cuts in supervisory positions.
NAPS President Louis Atkins responded to each of Issa’s public statements, first rejecting any characterization of the pension restructuring bill as a bailout, and also saying: “Trash talk about downsizing postal workers in gargantuan terms makes for good politics in an anti-government election season. But Congressman Issa’s downsizing targets for the Postal Service are wildly off the mark, and so are his numbers.”
Rep. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will be in line to take over from Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) the leadership of the House subcommittee tasked with overseeing the federal workforce and the Postal Service, though Hill sources have suggested that Issa may exercise his prerogative as full committee chair to retain jurisdiction over the Postal Service at the full committee level. Chaffetz has opposed the Postal Service’s plan to curtail delivery service from six to five days, and instead has proposed legislation to create 12 “postal holidays” each year to help the agency cut costs. A possible run by Chaffetz in 2012 for the Utah Senate seat held by 33-year incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) could color how Chaffetz approaches postal and civil service issues.
On the Senate side, less change in committee chairmanships is expected, with the Democrats likely retaining control of the chamber, though by far less. The leadership of the Senate panel charged with oversight of the Postal Service and the civil service — the Homeland Security and Governmental Committee — could see changes, however, if its current chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) crosses the aisle and links arms with Senate Republicans, but it is still too early to tell. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will likely continue as ranking minority member of the full committee.
NAPS Legislative Counsel