Senate Last Hope for USPS Funding

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With their hopes dashed in the House of Representatives, the U.S. Postal Service, mailers and mailing associations are looking to the Senate to raise extra money for the ailing agency.

Postal officials have said they need an estimated $1.1 billion for mail sanitization and security equipment through June in addition to the $175 million already allocated by President Bush.

A proposal from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-WV, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, originally called for raising the full $1.1 billion requested by the USPS. But a spokesman for Byrd said the proposal, which was supposed to be added to a supplemental emergency bill on anti-terrorism, now will be added to a Senate version of a defense appropriations bill. The spokesman would not say whether the proposal includes the full $1.1 billion.

On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee voted against adding an amendment to a bill that would have given the USPS $500 million to pay for upgraded security at postal facilities nationwide. The amendment, introduced by Rep. David Obey, D-WI, was defeated by an 8-2 vote.

As of press time yesterday, no markup had been scheduled for the defense appropriations bill, but it is expected to take place next week. If the bill is passed, it must go to a House-Senate conference committee before it can be signed into law by the president. All of these bills need to be acted on in the next two weeks if Congress hopes to end the session by Dec. 15. Some are now expecting the session to extend past Christmas.

"If the postal service doesn't receive an emergency appropriation from Congress before they adjourn, then that puts a lot of pressure to increase rates higher and faster," said Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Washington, DC. "Mailers need to get an appropriation from the Hill."

Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, said he expects the USPS will get something.

"Without this critical support from Congress, the very foundation of our universal postal system will be in jeopardy," Cerasale said. "Congressional funding is needed and necessary for our domestic security."

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