Mailers Disappointed Over Reform Developments

(Direct) Mailing industry groups were clearly disappointed at recent developments that dim the prospects for postal reform this year.

One such development is the reported comments of Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) before a recent industry function that postal reform has “zero chance” of being enacted. Carper is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee, which is considering postal reform bill S. 662.

Carper’s comments follow a document from conservative Representatives Mike Pence (R-IN), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called “What Every Conservative Needs To Know About Postal Reform”(HR 22), which argues that “the bill constitutes yet another bailout of the Postal Service without enough reform to represent a good deal for American taxpayers.”

“There was supposed to be a mark-up of S.662 on the 22nd, but with the ranking minority member coming out and saying prospects are near zero, committee chairman Susan Collins may pull the mark-up to avoid public embarrassment,” said Gene Del Polito, president of Postcom. “Now on the House side, Government Reform Committee Chairman [Rep.] Tom Davis is saying] he’s essentially going to leave the bill the way it is” despite the recent opposition from conservative groups.

“It’s as if he’s saying, ‘I’ve done all I can,'” Del Polito noted.

Del Polito, who earlier this year gave the bills a 30 to 70 chance of passing, now put the odds at 15 to 85.

“The main sticking point is still the $70 billion in payments for military service pensions,” added Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. “Maybe a compromise can be reached with the postal service paying he military pensions going forward, but time is running out before the July 4 Congressional recess.”

The postal reform bills, S. 662 and H.R. 22 calls for issues releasing money from an escrow account set up in 2003 to pay for the military pensions of former postal employees and turning over responsibility for those] to the Treasury Department. (Direct Newsline. Feb. 1).

In 2003, when the Office of Personnel Management discovered that the USPS was set to overpay its contributions to this fund by more than $70 billion, the mailing industry lobbied hard to get a law passed to have Treasury pick up the tab.

But the law that eventually was passed — P.L. 108-18 — put the money the postal service would save into an escrow account rather than just letting the USPS have it to pay down its debt and hold off rate increases. At present, the escrow provision has expired and things are back at square one.

But Denton still expressed some dim hopes.

Because people like Sen. Collins (R-ME) and others have worked so hard on postal reform for so long, Denton was “not throwing in the towel yet” on postal reform this year.