Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House committee advances funding measure with 6-day, service standards language

On June 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2016 Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government’s (FSGG) annual appropriations bill, which was introduced on June 10. The measure provides annual funding for the Treasury and Justice departments, the Small Business Administration, the District of Columbia and the Securities and Exchange Commission, along with several other agencies.

The measure provides $20 billion in funding, $1.3 billion below the appropriation for Fiscal Year 2015 and $4.8 billion below the president’s budget request for this year. Thanks to the broad jurisdiction of the FSGG committee, this appropriations bill usually becomes a catch-all for highly contentious issues, such as regulations for DC and the IRS, as well as reproductive-rights concern

As the bill relates to the Postal Service (and following extensive lobbying efforts by NALC activists and other interested parties), the committee preserved the longstanding budget language that mandates USPS to maintain six-day mail delivery. Unlike during last year’s appropriations process, the underlying bill this time around already contained six-day language and no attempts were made to strip it out, to amend it or to eliminate it.

“The inclusion of six-day language in the base bill is a victory for letter carriers,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “and it’s something of a change in direction from the last Congress, where some House members were looking for any opportunity to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, at any cost.”

Additionally, an amendment offered by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)—to restore USPS service standards to July 1, 2012, levels—was cleared by the committee, 26 to 23. Fattah said it was crucial for the USPS to return and keep in place service standards that call for overnight delivery of First Class Mail to 90 percent of the country.

“This amendment is an effort to have us not have slip away unconsciously the great service of a constitutionally required institution—that is, the Postal Service,” Fattah said. “It’s critically important to our economy and to the citizens of our nation that they can depend on the Postal Service, wherever they may live, to be able to communicate through the mail.”

Besides Fattah, voting in favor of the amendment were:

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)
Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV)
Rep. David Jolly (R-FL)
Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH)

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Rep. David Price (D-NC)
Rep. Michael Quigley (D-IL)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
Rep. José Serrano (D-NY)
Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN)
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. David Young (R-IA)

Among those speaking during the hearing in support of the Postal Service was Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who praised letter carriers—almost a quarter of whom are military veterans—as “a trustworthy and recognized presence on our streets, at our offices, and in the places we call home.

“They keep tabs on the elderly, and offer a friendly face to the meek and home-bound every day,” she said.

Kaptur noted that the real reason for the Postal Service’s financial problems in recent years was the pre-funding law passed in 2006 by a lame-duck Congress.

“This mandated the USPS pay for pre-funding retiree health benefits for 75 years by payments into a fund at $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion each year,” she said. “This requirement remains unique only to the USPS. Who ever heard of such a steep slope of payment for any retirement plan?

“The solution for fixing and saving the USPS is not to consolidate or close processing facilities,” Kaptur said. “The solution is to relieve the pre-funding mandate.”

“The U.S. Postal Service is in desperate need of improvement," said Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) in a statement following the hearing. "However, refusing to address its structural and management problems as jobs and businesses are ripped out from under our communities is not, and never will be an option. I’ll continue supporting efforts to protect and maintain our postal facilities on the Coast and in the Pine Belt."

“Members have sent a message rejecting the notion that the Postal Service can cut its way to prosperity,” said Rolando.

For decades, the appropriations language requiring USPS to maintain delivery frequency “at 1983 levels” has been renewed annually, tied to an allocation to the Postal Service to reimburse the agency for free mail for the blind and for postage for overseas voting.

The Senate’s appropriations committee has not yet begun work on its own FSGG measure, but the House is expected to consider its bill in the coming weeks.

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