Panel backs Postal Service overhaul as rate hike looms
The approval came despite bipartisan concern about language that would have allowed the Postal Service, rather than the Transportation Department, to contract with foreign airlines to carry international mail.
Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, offered an amendment that would keep that responsibility with DOT but commission a Government Accountability Office study to determine the impact of transferring it to the Postal Service.
The amendment, which was endorsed by Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, and ranking member James Oberstar, D-Minn., passed on a voice vote over the opposition of Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Davis said the amendment was "not a deal-killer" but the underlying bill was aimed at overhauling the Postal Service.
"When you limit their operations, that's not reform," he said.
Waxman said he could understand the support from members whose districts are the hub of a major domestic airline. But he noted that the increased competition would ultimately lead to lower rates. LaTourette argued that many international airlines are subsidized by their governments, making it difficult for domestic carriers to compete. He also said the language could cause security problems.
The House substitute, a product of negotiations between Davis and Waxman, mirrors to a large extent a Senate bill introduced last month by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del.
At the request of the White House, the substitute would limit some investment options of the Postal Service that were offered in the underlying bill and require the agency to file SEC-like reports.
The substitute also incorporated the Senate's compromise on work-sharing discounts, which allow the postal service to offer lower rates to large mailers for presorting mail and other tasks normally done by postal employees. The compromise was agreed to by the bulk mailers, the Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union. The original bill placed a four-year limitation on discounts, which the substitute drops. It also allows discounts to exceed the 100 percent of the costs avoided by the Postal Service.
The bill retains language included in last year's measure, opposed by the White House, which would give the Postal Service access to a pension escrow account and transfer responsibility for its military pensions back to the U.S. Treasury. The Postal Service has already begun to seek a rate hike, which will likely go into effect next year if the legislation does not pass this session.