Friday, September 24, 2010

Senator Carper's Bill: D.O.A

Senator Tom Carper introduced a new postal bill, the ‘‘Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation Act of 2010’’ (The POST Act of 2010), to modify the Postal Service's business model on September 23rd.   The bill includes all of the legislative changes that the Postal Service requested as part of its action plan last March.  The strong support that Postmaster General Potter shows for the bill in the press release from Senator Carper's office confirms that this bill can be thought of as the "Postal Service's bill."

Unfortunately for Postmaster General Potter, Senator Carper's bill is effectively dead on arrival.  Why?
  • The bill was introduced at the end of the legislative session.    With both the House and Senate going on recess to campaign, the consideration of the bill will not even begin until after the election.    The bill still will require mark-up in the Senate and then mark-up and passage by the House.   The clock will most likely run out before passage in one house of Congress, let alone two.
  • The expected Republican gains in the Senate and House will make any lame-duck session particularly contentious and further reduce the chance that any major legislation will pass.   If Republicans gain control of one or more houses in Congress, it is in their interest to make the lame duck session as ineffective as possible forcing legislative actions to be put on hold until the next Congress.
  • It is easier to stop legislation than to pass it.   The Post Act has a number of provisions that immediately generate opposition.
    • Provisions in the legislation to fix the retiree benefit issues easily can be opposed in a Tweet describing the fix as a bailout of a failed federal agency.   This is exactly what Congressman Darrell Issa said in his op-ed in the Washington Times.  Given opposition to bailouts of private sector firms, Congress is unlikely to pass any legislation labeled as a "bailout" of a government entity in the press, in the blogosphere, on cable TV news or on talk radio.
    • Provisions to allow the Postal Service to eliminate Saturday delivery will receive opposition from a majority of Congress. 
    • Provisions to allow the Postal Service greater flexibility to cut rural post offices will face opposition from primarily the Republican and Blue Dog Democratic members of Congress that represent most of rural America.   While these members are opposed to bailouts, they are also opposed to cutting services to their constituents.
    • Provisions allowing the Postal Service to expand into new services that use its physical, technological and human capital that are in the public interest will receive opposition from companies that fear competition from the Postal Service.
    • Provisions calling for a change in labor arbitration decision criteria will have opposition from Postal unions and their supporters in Congress.

Finally, if this bill does not pass this Congress, it is even less likely to pass in its current form in the next.   Republicans will control the agenda on modifying the Postal Service's business model in the next Congress.    Representative Issa, who has already called the Carper bill a bailout, appears likely to chair the committee writing Postal reform legislation in the House.   His bill will likely require significant changes in the business model beyond what the Postal Service has proposed before accepting the need to fix the retiree benefits issues, let alone include any of the other proposals that Senator Carper has included in the Post Act.  When that occurs, all that may remain of the Post Act will be the legislation's title.


Anonymous said...

If Congress and the Amerian public allow this issue to be resolved by "Tweets" or by the thoughts of politician like Rep. Issa, we are truly in a national crisis. Rep. Issa's comments show that the only thing he cares about is catering to those who would help fund his re-election. His comments also demontstrate his lack of understanding for the business he would preside over if he were to become a majority chair in the next Congress. The USPS has funded its requirements for retiree heath benefits to the tune of an EXTRA $50 billion to $75 billion according to TWO INDEPENDENT studies just for the CSRS employees. The USPS has been required to overfund the FERS employees fund also to around $7 billion already. This is not trying to avoid unfunded liabilites as Mr. Issa has stated. Rep. Issa wants to hold those extra funds to help fund the national deficit so he can grant more tax cuts to his rich benefactors.

Who in this country would not expect to recoup any overpayment to a creditor so they could use those funds to take care of their other liablities? This bill (with our without the 5 Day delivery component) would allow the USPS to meet its universal service obligations, control is on business, and allow the USPS to fund its operations WITHOUT a federal bailout. The USPS DOES NOT want a federal bailout, it just wants access to it own funds that it overpaid.

Anonymous said...

"The Post Act has a number of provisions that immediately generate opposition."

That's for sure. I believe compromise is necessary, but this isn't it.