Postal Reform Gets Down to the Wire

After 11 years and enough drama, close calls, and finger-pointing to fuel a season’s worth of episodes of the late “West Wing,” Congress passed a sweeping postal reform bill overnight Dec. 9.

The bill that passed, H.R. 6407, wasn’t introduced until Dec. 7. But its key points hew to those of the original bill, H.R. 22. The new bill was necessary because the bipartisan conference committee could not agree on the original reform bill, H.R. 22, explained Bob McLean, executive director of the nonprofit Mailers Council. So the conference committee introduced a “clean bill,” a compromise bill that the legislators agreed upon.

“A week ago, I thought this bill was dead,” McLean told MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT on Dec. 7. “But thanks to a lot of hard work from mailers and legislators, this thing has a good shot of passing.”

Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president, government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, said that a last-ditch effort by DMA members on Dec. 6 gave the bill a second wind on the Hill. “Our members have sent faxes, and lots of closed-door meetings are happening in trying to hammer out an agreement,” he said on Dec. 7.

Among the more dramatic reforms that are a part of H.R. 6407 are a rate-increase cap that ties future postage increases to the rate of inflation and strict criteria regarding conditions for emergency rate increases.

The bill will not affect the pending postal rate case, however, itself a fairly sweeping act of reform regarding how the U.S. Postal Service charges for services. The pending rate changes are expected to go into effect in the spring.

In addition, H.R. 6407–also known as the Postal Reform And Accountability Act–shifts liability for military service time of postal employees’ retirement payments from the USPS to the U.S. Treasury. The cost of the retirement payments is estimated to be as much as $27 billion.

The bill now awaits President Bush’s signature. If approved, H.R. 6407 will be the first major overhaul of the Postal Service since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970.

For more on the postal reform bill:

As Congress Adjuorns, Postal Reform Stalls

A Month to Push for Postal Reform?

For Postal Reform, It’s Hurry Up and Wait

Postal Reform: The Saga Continues

For more on the pending postal rate case:

Some Question May 6 Postal Increase

USPS Releases Details of Rate Case

Five Steps to Shape-Based Postage Compliance

Preparing for the Postal Rate Hike

Making Sense of the Postal Rate Case