As Congress Adjourns, Postal Reform Stalls

Though legislators and mailers worked past midnight on Saturday night–the session adjourned at 12:25 a.m.– an agreement was not reached on a conference bill that resolved the differences between the Senate (S. 662) and House (H.R. 22) postal reform bills. The news doesn’t mean postal reform is necessarily dead–just on life support.

According to Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president for government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association in Washington, the National Association of Letters Carriers was the culprit this time, at odds over language on an issue dealing with workers compensation. “We just ran out of time. So much for my Oct. 1 prediction,” he says.

Legislators, according to Cerasale, tried to get postal reform through the Senate as something known as “unanimous consent” to expedite the proceedings. If no Senator objects, the Senate permits voting, but if an objection is raised, the request is rejected.

And as the gavel came down early Sunday morning, it also ended the Congressional session until after the Nov. 7 elections. While Congress is adjourned, Cerasale intends to spend the remaining days with legislators to gain momentum and build consensus on specific language of the postal reform bill so that when Congress reconvenes during the lame duck session on Nov. 13, “we’ll be ready to go.”

A lame duck session occurs when Congress reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider items of business. Because some lawmakers who return for this session will not be in the next Congress, they are informally called “lame duck” members participating in a “lame duck” session. But as Cerasale says, “Things still happen during a lame duck Congress.”

One bright spot, Cerasale says is that Atlanta-based United Parcel Service dropped its opposition to the postal reform bill. UPS had been trying block a final agreement among members of Congress to the pending postal reform legislation by holding out for a provision that could have result in an increase of up to 40% in single-piece Parcel Post rates. Answering via e-mail on Oct. 2, David Bolger, spokesperson for UPS, says, with “so many people weighing in [Sept. 29] on the proposed legislation we were commenting on, it took on a number of versions,” he writes. “At the end of Friday, we considered all the perspectives–senators, staff House members, and industry people, and decided to not support nor oppose the measure.”

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