Postal Reform Encounters Another Major Setback

Rich Pedroncelli/AP file photo

Legislation to overhaul the Postal Service has hit yet another roadblock, with the agency’s oversight committee once again delaying its markup of the reform bill.

The markup -- which gives Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members an opportunity to offer and vote on amendments to the bill, and ultimately decide whether to move it to the full Senate -- was originally scheduled for Nov. 6, but was delayed indefinitely due to a lack of support from Democrats. Aides said the committee would vote on the bill -- the 2013 Postal Reform Act -- before Thanksgiving, and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., rescheduled a markup for Wednesday. But Carper, who introduced the reform measure along with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was forced once again to push back his timetable as he still failed to muster enough backing.

Carper and Coburn will now work on new language, which they will offer in the form of a substitute amendment to the original bill, according to a committee aide. The chairman and ranking member will reschedule a markup after the Senate returns from the Thanksgiving recess.

The aide said the amendment would address “concerns raised by members of the committee and stakeholder groups.”

One such member is Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who “does not support the bill in the current form and has several issues with it,” according to a spokesman. Baldwin has introduced an amendment to eliminate a provision of the Carper-Coburn bill that would give the Postal Service more freedom in setting its prices.

As currently written, the legislation would allow the existing inflation-based rate cap to expire in 2016 and eliminate the Postal Regulatory Commission’s role in issuing advisory opinions on major changes to service standards. Baldwin, echoing concerns previously raised by the mailing industry, said USPS should not be given authority to raise its rates to unsustainable levels that would ultimately reduce business and mailing-sector jobs.

Other Democrats on the committee, such as Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., have voiced concerns with bill, saying service cuts such as five-day delivery and the elimination of door-to-door delivery, unfairly target their rural states.

Postal Service officials last week redoubled their calls for Congress to take action. On Friday they announced the agency lost $5 billion in fiscal 2013, saying USPS would not be able to regain sound financial footing without legislative intervention. 

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