Postal Legislation Passes Senate; Fate in House Uncertain

From The Print Council

Postal Legislation Passes Senate; Fate in House Uncertain

The Senate last week managed to pass its version of postal reform legislation (S. 1789) but the industry must await the House of Representatives to take up either its version (HR 2309) or something similar.  At this writing, there is no schedule in the House to do so.

The Senate was operating under a perceived deadline of May 15th by which time the USPS is scheduled to resume closing facilities.  The Postmaster General had agreed to a moratorium on such closings until that time.  Despite the Senate action, it was highly unlikely, at the time the Senate bill passed, that the House would be willing or able to act by May 15th.

The primary challenge ahead is that the Senate bill and the House approach are almost 180 degrees apart.  The Senate has created legislation which puts off difficult decisions on closing facilities and eliminating Saturday delivery for a few years while the House sets up procedures to institute change in those two areas quickly. 

The House also envisions the creation of a control authority to take over management of the USPS in the event of a financial default.  Also under the House bill, rates would be increased (above the current CPI cap) for political mail, nonprofit mail, catalogs and periodicals.  The Senate bill only addresses periodicals and catalogs under a process supported by that segment of the industry.

The Senate bill attempts to stabilize the USPS financially by returning excess pension funds to the USPS ($11 billion) and changing the schedule of payments to pre-fund its retiree medical program. 

The fate of postal legislation is still uncertain.  While all members of Congress on both sides agree that something has to be done, the lack of consensus on the right solution creates an air of uncertainty in the printing and mailing industry at precisely the wrong time in history