McCaskill to USPS nominees: Will you stand up to Trump on Amazon?

- April 18, 2018

Three nominees to the board that oversees the U.S. Postal Service pledged Wednesday to take an impartial look at President Donald Trump's claims that Amazon is ripping off the agency — but stopped short of directly contradicting him.

In a hearing, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill asked Trump's nominees to the USPS board of governors whether they will confront the president if his frequent criticisms of Amazon's shipping practices prove untrue. Trump has taken to Twitter to repeatedly deride the Postal Service as Amazon's "delivery boy" and maintain that taxpayers are losing billions on the online retail giant's delivery contract, a claim that's been called into question.

"Those who confront him typically are shown the door in not too long a period of time," the Missouri senator said. "I just want to make sure you are not so afraid of being shown the door that you're not willing to do the right thing for the Postal Service."

Nominees David Williams, Robert Duncan and Calvin Tucker all gave some version of "yes," if not explicitly so. Trump has tapped them to oversee management of the financially strapped institution as part of a nine-member governing board that has sat vacant since 2016.

"We have to follow the facts and the facts will lead us toward the truth. That will be what we advocate for," said Duncan, who now serves as chair of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.


"I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as confrontation but I certainly would be willing to challenge the assumptions," Tucker responded.

The White House created a task force last week, chaired by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, that will examine the financial health of the USPS and recommend changes. Regulators have certified that the Amazon contract that triggered the scrutiny does not lose money.

"I'm just concerned presidential task forces sometimes tell presidents what they want to hear," McCaskill said.

But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) contended that McCaskill and Trump are "on the same side really on this issue." McCaskill has been a vocal skeptic of the amount that UPS and FedEx pay the Postal Service to deliver packages to doorsteps, reiterating during the hearing that those companies are competitors that should pay larger sums.

"He's concerned about how much Amazon is charged in that last mile and that's what we've been talking about, whether they are charged adequately or not," Paul said.

Paul suggested "maybe there is room for improvement" in the Postal Service's negotiated service agreement with Amazon and other big shippers.

"I don't say that because I dislike Amazon," Paul said. "I say that because I dislike losing a billion dollars a quarter at the Post Office."


 

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