Political maneuvering in Washington ahead of this year’s US elections appears to have put paid to much-needed postal reform legislation passing Congress until at least November.
After the Senate passed its version of a rescue package for the US Postal Service at the end of April, Republicans controlling the House of Representatives had scheduled a debate for their postal reform bill for July.
But it now appears that the Republican leadership is instead turning its attention to measures offering more of an “election message” with their priority on retaking the White House this November.
It is believed that postal reform could now have to wait until the “lame duck session” of Congress this November/December, the period after the elections but before the next official term of Congress begins.
Reforms are needed to help the US Postal Service face up to its monumental annual losses, forecast to reach as much as $14bn this year, after mail volumes have dropped 25% since 2006, and pension and healthcare payment arrangements set by Congress at a time when USPS was making record profits are now cannibalising the viability of the business.
Though seen by many as imperfect, the Senate Bill passed in April offered an $11bn rebate from the USPS pension surplus to pay for workforce reductions, and allowed a restructuring of USPS pension and healthcare payment obligations. However, the Democrat-led Senate also added restrictions on the Postal Service right-sizing its networks, and banned USPS from abandoning Saturday deliveries for two years.
The House proposals have sought less of a rebate approach for improving the Postal Service finances, and more of an austerity package with the establishment of a Commission to oversee major cutbacks – including a railroading of union lay-off protections.
The bill H.R. 2309 led by Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and postal subcommittee chairman Dennis Ross, who have been pushing for a debate this summer, also offers USPS an immediate elimination of Saturday deliveries, a measure the Postal Service believes would save $3.1bn a year in operating costs.
Last night Senator Tom Carper, who has been leading postal reform in the Senate, said he was
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