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Senate committee confirms USPS governors, PRC chair

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has ordered favorably by voice vote confirmation of one U.S. Postal Service governor and  the chairman of the Postal Rate Commission as well as the continuation of a current USPS governor’s term. 

In all cases, Senate confirmation will most likely take place, with a vote by the time the lame-duck session ends. There is no specific date for adjournment of the session, which began Nov. 13. Generally lame-duck sessions last one month.

One governor is Thurgood Marshall Jr., who was nominated by President Bush to be a governor on Sept 26. If approved by the full Senate, Mr. Marshall, who lives in Virginia, would be a governor for the remainder of a nine-year term, which will expire Dec. 8, 2011. He would take the seat that was occupied by Ned McWherter, who was appointed in October 1995.

Mr. Marshall is the son of former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. He is a partner at Bingham McCutchen, a Washington law firm that counsels and devises strategies for advancing clients’ interests before Congress and other regulatory bodies and is also a principal with the Bingham Consulting Group.

The governor extending his seat is James H. Bilbray, an attorney and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Nevada. President Bush appointed Mr. Bilbray as a governor of the USPS on Aug. 17 for a term that expires Dec. 8. The president nominated him for an additional nine-year term that expires Dec. 8, 2015, subject to Senate confirmation.

Mr. Bilbray took a seat vacated by Connecticut businessman John F. Walsh, who resigned in August with a year to go in his term.

The board has nine governors appointed by the president with the Senate’s consent, plus the postmaster general and deputy postmaster general. No more than five of the nine governors may be members of the same party.

Under postal law, six board members constitute the quorum needed to do business, but the board needs four appointed governors to vote on rate or classification adjustments, adjustments to the PRC budget and elections for board chairman and vice chairman. The postmaster general and the deputy postmaster general count for purposes of a quorum but can’t vote on these issues.

In January, James C. Miller III was re-elected board chairman and Alan C. Kessler vice chairman. Besides postmaster general John E. Potter and deputy postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, other board members include Mickey D. Barnett, Carolyn Lewis Gallagher and Louis J. Giuliano, Katherine C. Tobin and Ellen C. Williams.

As for the PRC chair, Mr. Bush nominated Dan Gregory Blair, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, to chair the PRC on Nov. 2.

The PRC is an independent regulatory agency composed of five commissioners, each appointed to a six-year term by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The president designates one commissioner as chairman.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Blair, of the District of Columbia, had served as senior counsel of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.

Earlier in his career, he served on the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight as staff director of the subcommittee on the postal service. Mr. Blair has worked on previous postal reform legislation.

Insiders said Mr. Blair’s appointment to the five-year term is a highly significant move, signaling that the administration wants a strong commission to oversee the USPS.

The current PRC commissioners are chairman George A. Omas, vice-chairman Dawn Tisdale, Mark Acton, Tony Hammond and Ruth Goldway. Mr. Omas’ term expired Oct. 14. Mr. Tisdale’s term expires Nov. 22.

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