Postal Affairs Committee

Paper vs. Politics

by Rafe Morrissey GCA Vice President, Postal Affairs

Greeting cards convey clear and unambiguous statements of emotional connection on paper. “On paper,” the fate of postal reform legislation should be equally unambiguous.  In theory, H.R. 756, The Postal Service Reform Act of 2017, has everything going for it.  It is supported by a bi-partisan group of legislators.  A broad coalition of stakeholders including both private sector and union organizations and Postal Service management are behind it. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee moved the bill quickly through the introduction, hearing and markup phases in the first three months of this year, poising it for consideration on the House floor. The Congressional Budget Office recently determined that the bill would reduce federal spending by $6 billion over the next 10 years.  Yet, due to a bizarre series of events, the bill has languished for the last two months with little clarity on its future.

Despite all the attributes of the bill, events have occurred that any novelist’s editor would have rejected as an implausible plot line. After receiving the opportunity to serve with his party in control of all three branches of government for the first time in more than a decade, the principal author of the Postal Reform bill and Oversight Committee Chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), abruptly announced his decision not to run for re-election and subsequently leave Congress by the end of June.  In addition, he missed much of the last five weeks due to surgery for an old foot injury.  His Democratic counterpart on the Committee and co-sponsor, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was also sidelined at the same time for heart surgery.  Sadly, this leadership vacuum took the wind out of the sails.

Meanwhile while House Leadership prepares to name Chaffetz’s successor, the broader political climate also has limited the impact of the next most senior Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). In addition to serving as the Oversight sub-Committee Chairman for the Postal Service, Meadows leads the House Freedom Caucus which has been at odds with House Leadership on the major issues of healthcare and tax reform.  These conflicts have limited his ability to be a champion for postal reform, despite his best intentions.

Notwithstanding the positives for the bill, there are some legitimate policy concerns over the impact of moving Postal Service retirees into Medicare that are a concern for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX). We remain convinced that the ability to stabilize the Postal Service and the overall positive score outweigh the relatively modest impact on Medicare, but without a committed chairman to defend the bill with House Leadership, it is difficult to make headway.

GCA has crafted plans to weigh in with Chaffetz’s likely successor, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) through meetings in Washington and in his district. In addition, we have led the effort to develop a strategy to highlight the issue for residents in Chairman Brady’s district.  A silver lining in this process is that the 10-year rate review at the Postal Regulatory Commission is moving slower than expected, providing more time for Congress to achieve a positive outcome.  The adversarial political climate and inevitable focus on the mid-term elections next year demand that we work to regain the momentum we enjoyed at the beginning of the year.  Hopefully, the next “plot twists” will work in our favor.  “On paper,” ensuring a strong and stable Postal Service should be a desirable accomplishment for any new chairman.

If you are interested in joining a Committee, contact GCA Executive Director Peter Doherty