A critical vote in the House Rules Committee will likely occur tonight that could give additional money to the U.S. Postal Service.
Postal officials have said that 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. The money was part of $40 billion emergency relief and anti-terrorism package. Congress has thus far refused to appropriate any more than that.
Earlier this month, the House passed a $20 billion package, which is the last component of the $40 billion supplemental bill. An amendment introduced by Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI) — which would have granted, among other things, an extra $500 million to the USPS — was defeated and not added to the package. However, the House Rules Committee is deciding today whether to add the amendment to H.R. 3338, which allocates Defense Department money for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2002.
There is mark-up scheduled on H.R. 3338 tomorrow.
The Direct Marketing Association warned its members yesterday that postal officials may be forced to revise their current rate case and raise rates as much as 19 percent next year.
“With a significant postal rate increase already scheduled for next year, the U.S. Postal Service is claiming that they will now have to revise their proposed rates upwards to reflect the added costs of bioterrorism, which they estimate to be at least $1.1 billion,” the DMA said in an e-mail to its members.
The DMA views the costs of bioterrorism “as an attack on our nation's infrastructure. Just as if our nation's railroads, bridges, phone systems or electricity grids were the target, the postal service is just as vital to our nation's economic viability and ability to communicate, and therefore justifies indemnification by the federal government in the event of catastrophic loss.”
Meanwhile, the Senate continues to argue behind the scenes on its proposal, introduced by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-WV, which appropriates the full $1.1 billion to the USPS.
All of these bills must be passed and signed into law by the president in the next two weeks because Congress is hoping to close the session by Dec. 13.