Only days after it was introduced, a proposed Senate overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service is taking its lumps from both organized labor and the mailing industry.
“This bill is fatally flawed,” Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said in a Friday statement denouncing the legislation as a betrayal of USPS employees.
The Association for Postal Commerce, which represents business mail users, has some “significant issues” with the measure, such as its idea for widening the Postal Service’s discretion in applying an inflation-adjusted cap on rate increases for standard mail and other areas where it dominates the market, the group’s president, Gene Del Polito, said in a phone interview Monday.
Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced the bill Thursday as lawmakers were leaving town for their customary August break, meaning that no action will be possible until next month at the earliest. The two are the chairman and top Republican, respectively, on the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service. Their bill came after months of discussion; a joint news release makes clear that both believe there’s still a ways to go.
“This bill isn’t perfect and will certainly change as Dr. Coburn and I hear from colleagues and stakeholders, including postal employees and customers,” Carper said. More pointedly, Coburn described the bill as a “rough draft of an agreement subject to change.“
But dialogue takes time and, with time running out for action, that tentative note underscores the growing odds that Congress will once again fail to approve any kind of comprehensive postal fix.
For one thing, the Senate bill differs significantly from the measure approved last month by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; for another, the Postal Service is doing a bit better than expected this year.
How much better will become clearer this Friday when the mail carrier releases its third-quarter financial results. But as Federal Times has previously reported, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe said last month that projected losses—originally pegged at $7.6 billion in fiscal 2013—will be closer to $6 billion. That may be relatively good news from a balance-sheet standpoint, but politically it means less pressure on Congress to move. And next year is a mid-term election year, meaning that lawmakers will even be less inclined to take the kind of tough votes that any serious postal overhaul is sure to demand.
Among other features, the Carper/Coburn bill would:
Require the Postal Service to continue Saturday mail delivery for at least one year while pressing the agency to replace door-to-door delivery with cluster boxes or curbside delivery when cheaper.
Require the Office of Personnel Management to recalculate the Postal Service’s pension obligations based on assumptions tailored to USPS employees rather than the federal workforce as a whole. Long story short, this step would likely reduce the amount that the Postal Service would have to pay into the two main federal pension programs and thus free up money for other purposes.
Revamp the federal workers’ compensation program.