Postal lobbyists plot next round for overhaul legislation

Now that postal overhaul legislation has passed the House Government Reform Committee, interest groups supporting the bill are broadening their lobbying efforts to the White House, congressional leaders and House conservatives.

Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, said supporters must explain the bill after the Government Reform panel approved it unanimously.

"Now you hear, 'That's very interesting that [Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif.] supports this. What's wrong with it?' " Polito said. "They only tend to look at things these days in terms of D and R ... This is an issue that has remained within the background; now it's time to begin the general educational process."

Ben Cooper, who tracks legislation for the Printing Industries of America, said he recently hosted a fundraiser for Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and attended a fundraiser for Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who is chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Cooper said he said has helped enlist a diverse group of 120 co-sponsors, including Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., whose district is a major air hub for UPS. Her endorsement of the bill highlights the success of UPS' lobbying. Northup is also a member of the Transportation-Treasury-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, which determines funding for government agencies.

Cooper said he and others are also continuing to communicate with President Bush's domestic policy advisers on the bill. The administration opposes the bill, and GOP leaders in the House might not give the bill floor time because of that.

Meanwhile, labor groups are using their membership to show support. George Gould, political director for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said he is bringing postal workers to meet with their state delegations. He said efforts are focused on a provision, opposed by the administration, that would shift payment of some of the Postal Service's military pensions to the Treasury Department. "It's an effort to persuade them that the administration is out of step," Gould said.

On the Senate side, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is likely to mark up the bill in coming weeks. The committee is grappling with whether to allow the Postal Service, rather than the Transportation Department, to negotiate with foreign airlines to carry mail, a sticking point in the House markup.

Although Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, would like the Postal Service to have that power, the airlines are likely to prevail, Cooper said, since "almost every senator has an airline hub."

Del Polito said supporters are concerned partisan wrangling over judges could delay floor action. If there is a showdown over filibusters, Collins is likely to be a swing vote and the bill's supporters hope GOP leaders will not delay action on the postal bill if she sides against them.

Although supporters have gotten no indication that would be the case, "you gotta be a dummy not to say that could be in the cards," Del Polito said.

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