*Postal Subcommittee Could Be Disbanded

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Congress is expected this week to dissolve the postal service subcommittee and hand over its responsibilities to the full House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform under Chairman Dan Burton, R-IN.

The postal subcommittee traditionally fell under this committee's jurisdiction. The U.S. Postal Service always had a specific oversight committee in Congress, until six years ago, when it became a postal subcommittee.

The dissolution of the subcommittee has not been officially confirmed yet, however.

Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, stepped down as postal subcommittee chairman this session after six years in the post. Rules imposed in the House prevent committee or subcommittee chairmen from holding a seat for more than three terms.

McHugh championed postal reform in his postal reorganization bill, H.R. 22, which was designed to give the USPS more freedom to manage its business and to establish rules to ensure fair competition. While DMers supported the bill, it ended up stalled in committee during the last session of Congress.

The anticipated absence of a specific postal subcommittee is troubling to direct marketers.

"We need some sort of oversight and review of the postal service by Capitol Hill, hopefully leading to some sort of reform. The current framework is breaking down," said Neal Denton, executive director at the Alliance for Nonprofit Mailers.

However, there are some positives to the new committee. McHugh will be a sitting member of the committee and could continue to play a vital role in postal reform efforts. The action also means that the basic framework of H.R. 22 will likely continue to serve as the starting point for reform discussions.

Denton said DMers should take a wait-and-see attitude about the changes.

"It is going to depend upon the kind of energy and expertise that the full committee devotes to this issue," he said. "If Chairman Burton puts a solid staff on it and [tries] to come up with a reform legislation, it will work out great."

But, Denton added, "There are a lot of folks that are saying with all of the responsibilities of the full committee, the postal service could easily get lost in the crowd."

In related news, Edward Gleiman, chairman of the Postal Rate Commission, will retire tomorrow. George Omas, the vice chairman, has taken over the administrative role.

President Bush will have to name a successor to Gleiman. According to Stephen Sharfman, a spokesman for the PRC, "There has been no indication from the administration as to a chairman."

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