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Postal Reform Isn’t Happening in 2013

For the third time in two months, Senate committee cancels plans to move forward with USPS overhaul.

There’s always next year.

Such has become the refrain for the often discussed, much sought after prize of overhauling the U.S. Postal Service. Lawmakers were again set to deliver postal reform in 2013, and at various points of the year set goals of March, August and Thanksgiving for passage. But after the latest in a series of setbacks, the window for acting on legislation in 2013 has closed, and reformers will have to renew their fight after New Year’s.

The Senate had scheduled one last effort to move its bipartisan legislation through the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for Wednesday, but the markup was cancelled. This was the third such scheduled markup -- during which committee members can propose and vote on amendments, as well as vote on whether to push the bill forward to the full Senate -- cancelled since November.

Lawmakers remain optimistic Congress can get a bill to the president’s desk at some point in the near future, however. While the previous cancellations were attributed to needing time to address “concerns raised by members of the committee and stakeholder groups,” a committee aide said the latest delay was simply a matter of timing.

“Given the busy floor schedule and remaining work on the bill, the Chairman [Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.] and Ranking Member [Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.], as well as committee members and stakeholders, thought it would be helpful to postpone the markup until the new year,” the aide told Government Executive. The aide added Carper continues to work with all interested parties to develop a workable bill.

The reform measure introduced by Carper and Coburn has received significant criticism, including from several of the oversight committee’s Democratic members, who have said it cuts too deeply and allows USPS to raise its rates unilaterally.

The American Postal Workers Union -- one of the bill’s most vocal opponents -- was “pleased” the markup was delayed and pledged to continue to stand against its passage.

“Our fight is not over,” APWU President Mark Dimonstein said.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee already has passed a bill of its own, authored by Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. In September, Issa’s office said he hoped to bring the bill to the full House “in the near future,” though a vote has yet to occur.  

(Image via Flickr user Aranami)