Postal Reform Bill Goes to Senate Floor12 Feb, 2014 By: Doug McPherson
WASHINGTON – A bill that would end Saturday delivery and make a recent increase in the cost of stamps permanent passed a Senate committee last week.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bill 9 to 1. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) voted no and said the changes would hurt mail delivery to rural areas and threaten the postal service’s mission of universal service. Six senators were absent from the vote.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) expressed disappointment at the move. “DMA is extremely disappointed in the outcome of … the Postal Reform bill. We oppose the Postal Reform Act of 2013 in its current form,” said Peggy Hudson, DMA’s senior vice president of government affairs, on the association’s website. “DMA will work closely with our Senate allies to improve this legislation for the mailing community.”
The senate’s action follows last year’s approval of a postal overhaul by a House committee. Key differences – among them five-day delivery, which the House bill would allow postal officials to start immediately – will likely be decided in a conference committee once each bill reaches the House and Senate floors.
The Postal Service could eliminate Saturday delivery only after mail volume drops below 140 billion pieces annually. Officials estimate that will happen in 2017 or 2018. The Postal Service also would be able to ship alcohol and enter other lines of business that are currently prohibited. The bill also would remove some authority from postal regulators to approve rate increases, another provision the industry opposes.
The Washington Post reported that Postal Service leaders welcomed the vote. The bill “provides the framework to return the organization to financial stability,” the agency said in a statement. “The bill also provides the Postal Service with the necessary flexibility to develop innovative products and services for the American public and to grow the business.”
Not surprisingly, postal unions shared frustration and said the bill would cut services and thousands of jobs by eliminating Saturday service and shifting mail delivery to the curb from the doorstep.
“Unnecessary and damaging attacks on the Postal Service’s vital networks and its employees – such as those unfortunately included in [the bill] – would only send the Postal Service on a downward trajectory,” Fredric Rolando, president of the largest postal union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in a statement.
Commercial mailers, meanwhile, oppose a provision to allow higher postal rates that are designed to bring the mail agency billions of dollars in new revenue.
“The Postal Reform Act would do serious harm to the Postal Service’s competitive viability by raising rates and cutting essential services,” the Greeting Card Association said in a statement, echoing the industry’s claim that making a 3-cent increase in the price of a first-class stamp and other mail permanent would cause mail volume to plummet.
But the Senate committee’s chairman, Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), and ranking Republican, Tom Coburn (OK), said the bill would provide needed relief for the Postal Service, which would run out of cash and be forced to continue borrowing from the U.S. Treasury if Congress does not act.
“I hope the legislation will allow the Postal Service to continue to be relevant and vibrant in the years going forward without being a burden to the taxpayer,” Carper said.