Anyone want to take bets on whether or not Congress will act in the few days they have left to get anything done?
If Congress does not pass legislation that would save the Postal Service from financial collapse before the end of its current session, the future of the country’s mail service will be in the hands of a senator who opposes government unions and thinks the Postal Service should be privatized.
In January, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is slated to take over as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the federal workforce and the entire Postal Service. Johnson has said that the Postal Service should go through a bankruptcy process that would result in a downsized, private corporation that would lose the benefits of governmental oversight and regulation. It could also allow the revised entity to terminate or substantially modify its contracts, including its collective bargaining agreements with various postal unions.
Last year, Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced the Postal Reform Act of 2014 which would restructure the needless requirement that the agency pre-fund 75 years’ worth of employee health benefits, a demand no other businesses or institutions face. The bill would also allow for a gradual end to Saturday mail service if financially necessary, as well as the eventual termination of door-to-door service, but would not mandate either of these steps.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who is set to retire early next year, has said the bipartisan legislation would be best for the Postal Service, but postal unions and commercial mailers oppose many features of the legislation. While the unions support some of the core principals, including changes to the pre-funded mandate, they say a switch to a five-day delivery would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. At the same time, mass mailers say the Carper/Coburn bill would continue higher postal rates which would stifle business, causing the volume of mail to decline further.
Postal unions and commercial mailers came together to offer compromise legislation and an alternative to the Carper/Coburn bill. Their proposal would keep six-day delivery and would guarantee the rollback of the recent 4.3 percent price increase, replacing it with smaller and more gradual increases over the next few years.
“The Postal Reform Act of 2014 is a deeply flawed bill [that] would raise postage rates on businesses and slash services and jobs unnecessarily, which is why it has failed to garner broad support in the Senate,” a group of postal unions and mailers said in a letter to Senators from the Committee on Appropriations arguing their compromise legislation should be passed.
I won't hold my breath.