On March 16, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the Postal Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 756) and the Postal Service Financial Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 760).
In a joint statement, bill sponsors—including Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC), Government Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL)—expressed optimism regarding ongoing efforts to reach consensus on the committee.
“After more than nine years and many stalled efforts,” they said, “leaders in Congress have come to a bipartisan framework for postal reform that will put the Postal Service on a sustainable path. Rather than dismantle the Postal Service, our bill will give it the authority and flexibility to thrive in the 21st century.”
“It is not perfect,” Meadows said. “It is as perfect as we can get it in this environment to make it something that will pass the House and the Senate.”
During the hearing, a substitute amendment to H.R. 756 was adopted, offering some technical changes to the underlying bill. Notably, former committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) offered four failed amendments related to delivery, including one that would require residential customers to opt out of a door delivery conversion within 30 days, in writing. Issa offered two additional amendments that called for eliminating a day of mail delivery and for forcing conversions from residential door delivery when the Postal Service does not achieve 2 percent in net sales. Both amendments were immediately withdrawn.
In a last-ditch effort, Issa sought to tie door delivery conversion to USPS’ ability to make a profit of at least .001 percent in a given year.
Committee members from both parties voiced objections over Issa’s efforts to derail H.R. 756 and the work done so far on it.
“I cannot support this amendment and I cannot support this amendment for two reasons,” Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) said in response to Issa’s efforts to derail the bill. “One, holding it to a standard of 2 percent in net sales profit suggests that we’re asking the Postal Service to do better than what the federal government has done over the last eight years in the 1.5 percent growth in GDP. That to me, in and of itself, is setting it up for failure.
“The second reason, and as much as I hate to do it,” Ross said, “is that I have to agree here with my friend from Virginia, Mr. Connolly. We don’t want all the effort that we put into this bill over the last six years to suddenly just get tanked because of one amendment. We’ve come way too far. But what we need to do is hold ourselves accountable to an institution that has been around longer than the United States government. And that’s the United States Postal Service. Let’s do what the American public wants us to do and show that we’ve come together on a bipartisan fashion to save an institution the American people rely on, want to continue to have and the service of, and then we can move onto other issues that seem to be at the forefront of us.”
“I don’t think I have ever agreed to something that says we’ll have 40 percent of people agreeing to that…would have people going through the process of opting out all the time,” Oversight Committee freshman Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-KY) said. “It doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of what I believe in. I would oppose the amendment and will ride the vote on this one with the ranking member.”
The committee also voted favorably on H.R. 760 after adopting minor modifications to the bill.
Both measures now will be referred to the House committees on Ways and Means and on Energy and Commerce because of Medicare-related language in them.
(photo credit: savethepostoffice.com)