Postal overhaul languishing despite compromise offer

Progress on legislation to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service, a project that is now 12 years in the making, continues to shuffle along slowly as House and Senate negotiators mull a recently proposed compromise measure.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, sent the proposal to House negotiators just before the August recess. It essentially mirrors the Senate-approved bill and is the result of talks between the Senate committee and House Government Reform committee staffs.

Members from both chambers have worked to smooth out differences between their bills while also attempting to write an agreement that would meet White House approval. The Collins proposal upholds the Senate's stricter rate cap provision, requiring that postal rate increases not exceed the rate of inflation.

An exit clause that would allow the agency to break that rate cap only in times of major emergencies is included in the conference agreement proposal. Both the strict rate cap and exit clause provisions are favored by mass mailers, who want a bill that ensures the lowest possible prices, but are opposed by unions seeking more flexibility in rate setting.

Despite the Collins proposal -- the most recent movement on the overhaul bill -- the outlook for final passage remains uncertain. White House officials oppose key sections of the House and Senate bills that would allow the agency to use some of its $3 billion escrow account to pay for operational costs rather than solely for its retirement benefits.

The White House also has demanded that the Postal Service continue paying the military pensions of its employees, which House and Senate members oppose. The bills passed overwhelmingly in both chambers would require the Treasury Department to pay for those pensions, which total about $27 billion.

Although Collins and House Government Reform Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., met with White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in June to attempt to reach a compromise, the conference proposal maintains the approved Senate language on both issues.

A spokeswoman for Collins said House and Senate members have not discussed the proposal since returning from the August recess, but a spokesman for Davis said the Republican and others "continue to work on consensus language on a daily basis. We are closer than ever to reaching agreement, getting through conference, and moving legislation to the floor."

Davis' most recent prediction, made just before the House adjourned for the August recess, was that a conference committee would meet to approve the bill before October. The Senate named conferees shortly after approving its bill last February, while the House, which voted on its measure in July 2005, has yet to appoint conferees.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.