Lawmakers begin drafting postal overhaul legislation

Now that the House Government Reform Committee has wrapped up its postal overhaul hearings, and with only one more hearing planned in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, lawmakers already have begun drafting legislation to change the nation's Postal Service.

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, will introduce legislation with Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., at the end of April, a Senate source said Monday.

Rather than introducing companion legislation in the House, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., plans to introduce his own bill with Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., a long-term advocate of postal change and chair of the House committee's postal panel.

Although each body will introduce its own legislation, sources predict a smooth conference process with little disagreement. A McHugh aide said last week she expects "nothing earth-shattering or lengthy or difficult" when the bill goes to conference.

Another House source said Monday he expected the House and Senate committees to mark up and report bills in time for a conference "by early summer."

As lawmakers continue putting these bills together, the most hotly debated topics probably will be workforce issues, such as reducing the size of the postal workforce and opening employee health benefits to collective bargaining. Collins also has said she intends to change the postal worker compensation system.

Other potentially contentious issues include scaling back the number of mail distribution centers and determining the Postal Service's ability to compete with private-sector mailers.

Ironically, the two biggest potential fights involve issues on which all postal overhaul players in Congress agree -- shifting the payment of military retirement benefits for civil service workers back to the Treasury and releasing $3 billion, currently in escrow, to the Postal Service.

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