News & information

NALC Legislative Update: April 11, 2014

Budget discussions continue in the House

This week, there was a fair amount of independent activity surrounding various Fiscal Year 2015 budgets proposals—from the House Republicans’ budget to an in-depth hearing on the Obama administration’s budget, it’s been a busy week on Capitol Hill.

On April 10, the House passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget (H.Con.Res.36), which serves as the GOP blueprint to balance the budget in 10 years through massive spending cuts. The plan stands by the $1 trillion discretionary spending limit agreed to by both parties as a result of the two-year budget agreement, which temporarily suspended the sequestration process—automatic budget cuts that were enacted in April 2011. To maintain those operational guidelines, the GOP budget request increases defense spending by nearly $480 billion over 10 years while severely reducing non-defense spending to $791 billion less than levels set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

The Ryan measure was passed by a vote of 219-205, with all Democrats voting against the legislation along with 12 Republicans who defected from the party-line vote, including Reps. Paul Broun (GA), Rick Crawford (AR), Chris Gibson (NY), Phil Gingrey (GA), Jack Kingston (GA), David Jolly (FL), Walter Jones (NC), David McKinley (WV), Austin Scott (GA), Ralph Hall (TX), Thomas Massie (KY) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ). Eight lawmakers missed the vote.

“This budget is the Republican declaration of class warfare—it protects the elites at the expense of the rest of the country,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “By rigging the game in favor of the wealthy and privileged special interests while dismantling the ladder of opportunity for everyone else, it violates the fundamental promise that every hardworking American should have a fair shot at success.”

How does all of this affect letter carriers? Since predetermined spending caps were set into place last year, the GOP budget serves mostly as a messaging document. However, with regard to the Postal Service, House Republicans recommended giving the Postal Service “the flexibility that any business needs to respond to changing market conditions, including declining mail volume.” In other words: elimination of Saturday delivery. The Ryan budget also calls for increasing postal employees’ share of the costs of their health and life-insurance premiums.

House holds hearing on Postal Service, budget reform

On April 8, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to discuss the White House’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request. The hearing focused on a set of proposals put forward once again by the Obama administration that were originally developed during the Biden-Cantor deficit reduction talks back in 2011 and that have appeared in all four budgets released since that time. The NALC has lobbied extensively that these proposals, many of which are similar to those contained in Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) H.R. 2748, do not offer a real solution to the Postal Services financial challenges.

The proposals put forward by the administration include calling for the end of Saturday mail delivery and for allowing the Postal Service to “begin shifting to centralized and curbside delivery where appropriate.” It also seeks to make permanent the 4.3 percent exigent postal rate increase enacted in January, an increase that the Postal Regulatory Commission had set to expire in two years.

“The Administration’s proposals fail to address the main source of the Postal Service’s problems and directly threaten nearly 100,000 good postal jobs at a time when the Postal Service’s finances have rebounded strongly,” said NALC President Rolando. “Congress should focus on unchaining USPS from the retiree health pre-funding burden and freeing the agency to grow and innovate. All of the discussions this week on job-killing budget proposals that degrade or dismantle our invaluable postal networks are not the conversation we should be having.”

An increasing number of house lawmakers continues to support six-day delivery

Over the last two weeks, two “Dear Colleague” letters circulated throughout congressional offices, asking House members to show solidarity in their support for maintaining six-day delivery services for residents and businesses throughout the country. Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Sam Graves (R-MO) rounded up more than 130 signatures from members in both parties on a letter to House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Ranking Member Jose Serrano (D-NY) requesting that its FY 2015 funding measure include the long-standing provision preserving six-day mail delivery in urban and rural communities across the country. This provision has carried strong bipartisan support and three decades of precedent, with Congress enacting the six-day delivery requirement in every appropriations act covering the Postal Service since 1984.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-MO) also circulated a similar version of the letter, which garnered more than 40 signatures. Following the two-week recess, the FSGG subcommittee will take up its appropriations measure, where the NALC will continue the fight to retain six-day delivery language.

In addition, Graves’ H. Res. 30, which expresses the sense of the House to take “all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of six-day mail delivery service,” continues to gain momentum among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and the NALC encourages letter carriers to continue to gather support from House members who have not yet signed on. At this writing, there were 213 co-sponsors. A full list of co-sponsors can be found here.

Recess call to action

With so much recent activity on the budget and with the renewed interest in postal-specific issues, the congressional recess is an ideal time for NALC members to remind our representatives not to support any legislation that reduces mail delivery service, damages USPS’ networks, and does not fix the requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits.

Representatives are holding events across the country to listen to our concerns. Call, write and visit your representatives, and attend a town hall meeting to make your voice heard. America needs a strong Postal Service and the NALC needs you to deliver that message.