New Postal Overhaul Measure Wins Support From Key Republican
Lawmakers introduce bipartisan measure postal leadership has deemed essential for righting the ship at USPS.
The top Republican on the House committee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Postal Service threw his support behind a new bill to overhaul the mailing agency, giving lawmakers an easier path to finally delivering on long-sought-after reform.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, joined Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the panel’s chairwoman, in introducing the 2021 Postal Reform Act, which is a modified version of a draft measure put forward by only Democrats in February. The bill includes previously bipartisan provisions to shift more postal retirees to Medicare for their health care and require most postal workers to select postal-specific health care plans. The measure, like all recent attempts at postal reform, would take onerous payments toward health care benefits for future retirees off the agency’s balance sheets.
Prior efforts to enact postal reform won bipartisan support in the House, with interest in putting the cash-strapped USPS on firmer financial footing transcending otherwise deep ideological divides. Comer said at a hearing earlier this year postal reform would require “hard decisions” that the Democrats’ draft bill did not address. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy endorsed the draft version of the bill in February and said its core components were essential to eliminating projected losses over the next decade as part of his 10-year business plan.
The new version of the bill would allow USPS to provide non-postal services, including for state governments and other federal agencies. It also included a six-day delivery mandate, which DeJoy has already said he plans to maintain. Postal management would face a new requirement to update the White House, Congress and its regulator every six months on its financial state, volume, implementation of changes, investments into its network and performance. It would also have to create new annual performance targets with a public website for tracking results.
"Ultimately, this bill will preserve and strengthen the Postal Service, one of our nation’s most vital and respected institutions," Maloney said.
Comer suggested the bill would have that effect only because it was "couple with Postmaster General DeJoy's business plan." Art Sackler, president of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a group of large-scale mail users like Amazon and the National Newspaper Association, praised the bill and said it should make DeJoy think twice about instituting his non-legislative reforms.
“The Postal Service Reform Act is a huge step toward delivering the U.S. Postal Service into financial solvency, but it also presents a much-needed opportunity to protect USPS from the threats it now faces from within,” Sackler said. “By raising prices dramatically on mail and institutionalizing service downgrades, the new 10-year plan—if left unchecked—will hurt large and small businesses, nonprofits, charities and consumers, as well as the future of the Postal Service.”
The oversight committee will mark up and vote on the new bill on Thursday, likely sending it to the House floor for consideration. Bipartisan support has not stopped previous postal reform efforts from repeatedly fizzling out over the last decade, but renewed and widespread interest in the issue, coupled with Democratic control of the Senate, could create an easier path to passage this time around.
Maloney also led dozens of House Democrats on Tuesday in writing a letter to President Biden requesting he follow through on a pledge to secure funding for the Postal Service to ensure all of its new vehicle fleet is electric. USPS recently announced a contract for the first part of its plan to replace its 200,000-vehicle fleet, though it said just 10% of the new purchases would be electric. Postal officials have said the agency is open to going more electric, but it did not have the funds and would require outside assistance to make the purchases. According to the Democratic letter, USPS would require $8 billion for an all electric fleet and to set up the necessary charging stations. As a part of its $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, the White House said in March it would allocate a portion of a $46 billion pool toward electrifying the entire federal fleet, including USPS vehicles.
Democrats said they plan to push legislation that requires at least 75% of the new postal fleet to be electric and would prohibit USPS from purchasing emission-generating vehicles beginning in 2040.
The Senate this week is scheduled to take up two of Biden’s nominees to serve on the postal board of governors, though it will not take action on a third. Spokespeople for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not respond to an inquiry into why Anton Hajjar, a former American Postal Workers Union official, was left off the slate. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved all three nominees last month. Hajjar was the most critical of DeJoy during his confirmation hearing, saying recent surges in mail delays were “unacceptable” and that some parts of DeJoy’s plans raised concerns. Democrat-aligned members of the board would not have a majority of the Senate-confirmed seats until all three of Biden’s nominees are approved.
A Senate aide said Hajjar’s absence from the upcoming vote was “simply a scheduling issue” and his floor vote would be “scheduled soon.”
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