Postal Official Sees "Diminishing" Odds Of Postal Reform Passing

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WASHINGTON -- The odds that postal reform will pass this session of Congress are diminishing, according to a postal official speaking here at the quarterly Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee meeting yesterday.

"In the spring, I stood here and told you that I thought there was a high probability that [postal reform] legislation would be enacted during this session of Congress, but the probability of that happening has diminished as time is running out," said Thomas G. Day, senior vice president, government relations, for USPS. "I would never rule out that we cannot get the legislation enacted in this Congress, but the odds are going down."

Day added that when the 109th Session adjourns and the 110th session begins in January, the bill would need to be reintroduced.

When asked what the prospects of that happening were, Day said, "if nothing is enacted, we do need to deal with something in the 110th, but we have to figure out what that might be." A key question will be who will be the majority party in either the House or the Senate, Day said, and "if there are leadership changes, then we will really have to take a step back and see what the next steps may be. But we will wait and see what happens in this session right now."

Postal reform bills are awaiting action by a congressional conference committee. The House has not yet named its conferees, but the Senate has. Reform bill H.R.22 passed last summer, and S.662 passed in February.

Mr. Day said the House and Senate will "pre-conference" most issues before House Conferees are named, and that the House/Senate committee leadership has called for the conference in September.

In order for a reform bill to pass, Mr. Day said, differences among the House, Senate and White House must be resolved and approved by majority of both House and Senate conferees. Both the full House and Senate must approve a conference report, and the President must sign final legislation into law.

A key concern with postal reform passage is that time is running out in the 109th Congress, Mr. Day said.

"The legislation is on a very tight calendar," he said, adding that in the 109th session there are just 20 days left in September and five days in October. There will also be a lame duck session beginning Nov. 13.

"But how long that lasts is anyone's guess," said Mr. Day, adding that the House and the Senate still have a lot of unfinished business, including passing appropriations bills, which they will most likely do during the lame duck session.

Day said a major hurdle to the resolution of differences between Administration and HR 22 / S 662 is on financial relief, especially the military service obligation.

But he said there are many other issues that groups have differences of opinions about, including, worksharing language, negotiated service agreements, and revised worker's compensation rules

Day also said that recently, UPS said it strongly supports legislation that moves single piece parcels into the competitive products category. A variety of mailers, trade associations and unions, however, have strongly held positions that single piece parcels remain in the market dominant category.

"There is a major difference in pricing and legislation between market dominant and competitive," said Mr. Day. "That's not just a little bit of language."

In short, Day said that the number of issues that require resolution has increased, the difference of opinions appears to be more extreme, and time remaining grows short. As a result, the idea of passage seems less and less possible.

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