Despite Support, H.R. 22 Still Sits

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The National Newspaper Association reversed its position last week and announced its support for the for H.R. 22, The Postal Modernization Act of 1999, adding its name to the roster of supporters for the bill that is still expected to sit idle through the summer.

In a letter to Government Reform Committee chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) -- where the bill is currently pending -- NNA president Lockwood Philips said that "it is important to do [postal reform] now, in a sober and contemplative manner, rather than to wait until the forces of change beset the American public and leave all of us in a state of disarray." The NNA is a national organization representing nearly 3,600 smaller, local community newspapers.

Through meetings with NNA officials, Rep. John McHugh, (R-NY), chairman of the House Postal Subcommittee said that the subcommittee will modify the bill when it proceeds to full committee consideration.

But while the bill was first expected to be marked up in mid-June by the government reform committee, and then by the committee before Congress' week-long July 4 recess, there are currently no plans to move H.R. 22. Reportedly, the bill is not moving because Burton will not schedule a hearing on it until he has enough votes to pass it to the full house, and he is six votes short.

The reason may stem from the building support for an alternate bill drafted earlier this month by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA,) the ranking minority member of the government reform committee. The bill, which was expected to be introduced in late June, also will wait until a mark-up session to be formally introduced. The bill is being backed by Democrats on the committee, and a handful of Republicans who are not supportive of current bill -- leaving Burton with less votes than he needs.

"There are those who are considering some very disturbing amendments," said Dana Johnson, a spokesperson for Rep. McHugh. "We have tried to work through some of those concerns … so we are definitely talking about the July time-frame [for mark up] right now. We are just trying to work within the process to address some of the concerns that members have."

Waxman's bill -- which is co-sponsored by Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the ranking minority member on the postal subcommittee -- differs from H.R. 22 in that it doesn't support a provision permitting the USPS to divide its products and services into noncompetitive and competitive categories overseen by a private law corporation. Instead, it calls for a separate commission as well as negotiated service agreements for noncompetitive categories of mail and supports the subpoena power for the Postal Rate Commission.

Rep. Wayne LaTourette (R-OH) is also expected to introduce another amendment at the mark up.

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