House leader aims to allay conservatives' concerns on postal bill

House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., is planning to leave in a provision allowing labor unions to appoint a representative to the Postal Service's Board of Governors as part of sweeping postal overhaul legislation, despite criticism from some Republicans and conservative groups.

GOP opposition could delay a floor vote on the measure, especially since the White House also opposes some provisions. Instead of changing the bill, which is backed by a broad but fragile coalition of stakeholders -- including labor unions -- Davis plans to continue talking to conservative House members to garner support before the measure goes to floor, likely later this month or next.

"At this point we're comfortable with the labor provisions. We've received significant concessions from labor" on other issues, said a Davis spokesman.

To the bill's GOP detractors, Davis' message is that his bill is "in essence a Republican bill and the only way to prevent a significant backdoor tax increase," his spokesman said. The Postal Service has said the bill, which is cosponsored by Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., would avert a double-digit rate increase that otherwise is planned this year.

Citizen Outreach, a conservative advocacy group, sent a letter to the Republican Study Committee criticizing the labor language, which gives unions veto power over one of nine governors' seats on the panel overseeing the Postal Service.

The RSC pledged to examine the provision. Chuck Muth, president of Citizen Outreach, said the provision would give labor too much power over the agency.

"If anybody should have a guaranteed seat on the board, it should be consumers," Muth said.

The group also shared those concerns with Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who then sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., lambasting the provision. Davis met with Norquist last week and the conversation "went a long way toward alleviating [his] concerns about the bill," Davis' spokesman said. Norquist could not be reached for comment.

Still, many House members with ties to Norquist see the language as "one of the more glaring problems" with the legislation, a House GOP aide said. While Davis' spokesman noted that RSC members on the panel voted for the legislation, the GOP aide said those members voted to "get it out of committee and support their chairman."

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