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Postal reform update: A changed political landscape requires a new strategy

Congress returned to business in January to a transformed capital city. We have a new president and one-party control of the federal government.

Fortunately, postal reform has strong bipartisan support and our goals have not changed. Our strategy, of course, will have to change to reflect the new landscape.

On Feb. 7, NALC President Fredric Rolando testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on postal reform legislation. The committee’s leaders have introduced two bills: H.R. 756, the Postal Reform Act of 2017, and H.R. 760, The Postal Service Financial Improvement Act of 2017. We used our testimony to provide suggested improvements to the bills, which may be marked up later this month. (A mark-up is a committee meeting where members can amend, delete or add provisions to bills under consideration.)  

We also urged the committee to adopt the two bills because they contain all the essential elements to achieve our two core goals for postal reform:

  1. a workable resolution of the crushing retiree health pre-funding burden, achieved by maximizing participation in the Medicare program and investing the Retiree Health Fund more sensibly; and
  2. a partial restoration of the exigent rate increase that expired last year, to provide USPS with the revenues needed to stabilize its finances as the Postal Regulatory Commission conducts its 10-year review of the rate-setting system for market-dominant products.

The Oversight Committee’s consideration of H.R. 756, which we hope will be amended to include the provisions of H.R. 760, is just the first step in a very long process. Assuming the bill is approved by the committee, it will be referred to the Congressional Budget Office for a review of its impact on the federal budget (“scoring”).

The legislation will also be sent to the two House committees that share jurisdiction over the Medicare program: the Ways and Means Committee for the bill provisions involving Medicare Parts A and B, and the Energy and Commerce Committee for the Medicare prescription drug provisions. Once all the committees have had their say, the bill would next go to the floor of the House for debate, amendments and a final vote. Meanwhile, a similar process would have to take place in the Senate before a measure can be sent to the White House for a signature.

At each stage of the process, NALC will assess the bills and measure our progress toward achieving our goals. At this early stage, we can support advancing H.R. 756 and H.R. 760 through the Oversight Committee. Our goal is to work with our coalition of postal management, postal unions and mailers to keep the process going and make improvements along the way.

Our ultimate objective is to achieve the two core goals described above while protecting our jobs, our rights, our networks (including door delivery, Saturday delivery, etc.) and the interests of all annuitants from any unreasonable hardships caused by the bill’s Medicare provisions.