American Society of Magazine Editors

House Committee Continues Efforts on Postal Reform; “Five-Day” to Pay for Highways?

Frustrated with a reticence among House leadership to consider the comprehensive postal reform legislation his committee reported in 2013, Congressman Darrell Issa continues to try to find a way forward on postal reform.   

In early May, Chairman Issa indicated his intent for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to consider a postal reform discussion draft based on language in the Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal. Though supportive of the broader bill, MPA strongly opposed a provision that would have placed, into permanent law, the controversial and hotly contested “exigent” postal rate increase that went into effect on a temporary basis in January. 

After extensive discussions, Chairman Issa moved away from this proposal, shifting tactics towards a more granular approach.  On May 21st, the committee reported H.R. 4760, the Secure Delivery Act of 2014, on a party-line vote.  The legislation authorizes the United States Postal Service (USPS) to convert 40% of the addresses that currently receive door delivery to centralized, communal cluster boxes.  The Committee estimates an annual savings of $2 billion a year.  Though he lamented that it was not the comprehensive reform bill that he’s seeking, Chairman Issa noted that the bill was a step towards alleviating the USPS’ extreme financial woes.

While the House continues to work, the Senate’s postal reform efforts (the “Carper-Coburn” bill) remain stalled, with the delay attributable to opposition from both mailers and unions.  MPA has continued to lead the opposition to the bill’s provisions on rate increases and USPS governance, while the unions continue to oppose the bill’s service reductions, and facility closures and consolidations.  Though there remains a high level of interest among all the parties involved to find an acceptable substitute, there is no visible progress on finding a solution.

Another item often cited as a significant cost savings for the Postal Service is a move towards five-day delivery, and the road to implementation may be building in an unusual place.

In August, the federal Highway Trust Fund, which funds road building projects through the federal gas tax, will become insolvent.  Always desperate for funding mechanisms, House Republicans have proposed a bit of budget trickery as a solution.  The idea claims the off-budget “savings” from five-day delivery – estimated to be about $2 billion a year – as an on-budget savings based on the assumption that the federal government will not need to use federal (on-budget) funds to bail out the (off-budget) Postal Service in the future. 

Much of the interest in the highway / postal “pay-for” is attributable to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who has put considerable work into shepherding the idea in the House.  With his recent and highly unexpected primary loss, the idea may lose some momentum, especially given the lack of interest in the idea in the Senate.