Democrats unlikely to shift course on DM issues

Despite the shift in power to the Democrats, there likely will be no shift in policy for most issues affecting direct marketers when the 110th Congress convenes in January.

Handling of issues such as privacy, data security, postal reform and Internet taxation will stay much the same, according to Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. Privacy, for example, is a bipartisan issue, he said.

“Lots of the privacy activity came out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and chairman [Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX,] was very much interested in the privacy issue and wants things to go forward, and I think that that interest remains,” he said. “We certainly are going to be working on privacy in the next Congress.”

Democrats last held both houses of Congress in 1994.

Mr. Cerasale said the DMA is also tracking Internet taxation, another bipartisan issue. Under the Internet Tax Discrimination Act that took effect in 2004, a moratorium on Internet taxes expires Nov. 1, 2007. The act bans taxation of all types of Internet connections, from traditional dial-up services to high-speed broadband lines.

“We are going to be working this issue hard in this Congress because the moratorium ends,” he said.

Postal issues are also bipartisan, according to Mr. Cerasale.

“The players are just changing seats — it’s like musical chairs in a sense — so they are all going to be working together as much as they can, just like when the Republicans were in control,” he said.

However, Mailers Council executive director Bob McLean contended that postal issues would change drastically. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Reform, now will chair the committee, and he probably will look closely at service issues.

“[Rep. Waxman’s] district is Los Angeles, an area that has seen terrible service in recent months because of the way the postal service handled the consolidation of the Marina Del Rey [CA] facility,” Mr. McLean said. “I would expect him to look into service issues as they relate to plant consolidations,” and he also likely will focus on postal employee issues.

The committee’s membership also could change considerably, he said, even though the current chair, Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA, likely will be the ranking minority member.

“The number of Democratic members will go up and the number of Republican members will go down, so there will be some changes among committee membership,” Mr. McLean said. “And then you have all these new members of Congress looking for a place to work.”

The postal and mailing communities will have to spend time training new staff members on postal issues, especially with nearly 50 new members in Congress next year.

On the Senate side, Joe Lieberman, I-CT, could head the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Current chair Susan Collins, R-ME, likely will remain as the ranking minority member.

Postal reform bills await 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.

As for whether postal reform will pass during the lame duck session of Congress that begins today, Mr. Cerasale said, “Will we have time to do it? I don’t know. But we are going to be pushing hard for this. Not only is it a bipartisan issue, but the Democratic leaders of the committee are working with the Republican leaders, and both sides want to get this done in the lame duck.”

“Postal reform remains a priority for Senator Collins, and she is hopeful that we can move the bill during the lame duck session,” Jen Burita, the senator’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail statement.

Though the Democrats have publicly stated priorities such as increasing the minimum wage and stripping financial relief given to big oil companies, the 110th Congress generally will be pro-business, Mr. Cerasale said.

“There have been, especially in the House, a significant number of moderate Democrats that were elected,” he said. “So I think there clearly is a view to keep the economy going and so forth. Businesses have won and lost things in the Republican Congress, and they are going to win and lose things in the Democratic Congress.”

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