Postal reform: still waiting

It seemed like good news when on July 26 the House of Representatives approved H.R. 22, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act by a resounding 410 to 20. But a week later, James C. Miller III, chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, warned mailers not to get their hopes up — and to prepare for the possibility of more rate hikes.

Why the negativity? The White House has made it clear that it will veto H.R. 22 if it’s not “revenue neutral.” In a revenue-neutral organization, discounts on some services have to be offset by price increases for other services. Proponents of H.R. 22 and the Senate version, S. 662, argue that a revenue-neutral USPS cannot compete against free-market rivals such as United Parcel Service.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 622 when it reconvenes in early September. If it’s passed, it must be crafted with H.R. 22 into one bill to be voted on by a conference committee. If passed, the bill goes to both houses for a final vote. If it passes there, the only thing preventing it from becoming a law is a presidential veto.

“I can see where mailers would be impatient,” says Kate Muth, vice president of the Association for Postal Commerce. “But I’d imagine that there are still discussions going on between the Senate and the White House to try to iron out budgetary concerns.”

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