Dueling Drafts Could Stall Postal Reform

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A discussion draft on postal reform circulated by House Democrats last month differs significantly from a Republican draft submitted last year, leading postal observers to wonder whether the competing drafts could add more delays to postal reform legislation.

In their draft, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, and other committee Democrats call for a "Super Regulatory Agency" that would delegate almost all authority over postal matters to the Postal Rate Commission.

Last year's Republican draft also gives the PRC enhanced authority. But unlike the Democrats' draft, the Republican plan outlines reform steps and requires the PRC to follow those measures. Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, introduced that draft. Meanwhile, the USPS is working on its own transformation plan, which it plans to submit to Congress on April 4.

It might appear to be good news that lawmakers from both parties now have introduced drafts, but some see it as a sign that lawmakers can't reach an agreement.

"I think the discussion draft is a serious attempt by congressman Waxman to try to look at postal reform from a different point of view," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. "But I think it's difficult at this late stage in a political year to now have, in a sense, two competing [drafts] -- the McHugh discussion draft and the Waxman discussion draft. I think that is going to dramatically slow down the process of postal reform."

Neal Denton, executive director at the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Washington, is hopeful that a compromise can be reached.

"Over the last several weeks, members of the House Committee on Government Reform have been working to find common ground in the hopes of introducing a bipartisan approach to postal reform," Denton said. "I remain hopeful that such a bipartisan bill will emerge. We still have a little bit of time in the 107th session, and there is a lot that can be done. There is a very great possibility of another rate case filing at the close of the current postal fiscal year, and it's going to be gross. Something has to be done to mitigate that damage."

Postal officials would not comment on either bill, but insiders said the USPS is unlikely to support the Waxman bill.

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