Postal Reform Passage Doubtful This Week

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The postal reform bill was not included on a list of legislative items -- published yesterday -- to be considered by the House of Representatives this week, casting doubt on hopes for swift passage of the bill.

After Friday, Congress breaks for the Democratic and Republican national conventions and its traditional summer and Labor Day holidays. Congress won't be back in business until Sept. 7, and tentatively plans to end the current legislative session Oct. 1.

That leaves little time for passage of the reform bill if no House vote occurs this week, said Ed Gleiman, former chairman of the Postal Rate Commission and consultant to the Direct Marketing Association. But Gleiman said his experience in Washington tells him not to give up hope of a vote this week just yet.

"We have a very fluid situation with the legislative process," he said. "It twists, turns and changes literally from hour to hour."

Should the session end without passage of a reform bill, the issue would be stalled until the start of the next session in January, Gleiman said. At that point, supporters -- such as Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Tom Davis, chairs of the Senate Governmental Affairs and House Government Reform committees, respectively -- could reintroduce the bills.

"It's a setback but not a significant setback," Gleiman said. "You don't go all the way back to the drawing board."

The DMA hosts a teleconference on the status of postal reform from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EST today. Registration is available for free to DMA members at Call-in information will be sent via e-mail at noon EST to those who register.

An issue to be addressed in the call is member confusion over how postal reform could affect the next postal rate case. The confusion stems from a provision in the reform bill that pegs rate increases to inflation, Gleiman said.

Even if the reform bill passes this year, it is unlikely to factor into the next rate case, Gleiman said. The DMA expects the U.S. Postal Service to file a rate case between December 2004 and February 2005, he said.

The USPS has promised not to raise rates again until calendar year 2006. Rate cases typically take more than a year from filing to implementation.


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