“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Whoever you were backing in last week’s election, the results have certainly changed the political landscape in Washington, DC. We’ve seen a number of articles in the last week trying to project what the results mean for the country, the major political parties, various constituencies and different industry segments.
What about the U.S. Postal Service? What impact will the electoral changes have on the prospects for postal reform legislation, reconstituting the Postal Service’s governing board, and fully staffing the Postal Regulatory Commission? Although no one knows for sure, we can’t let the pundits have all the fun. Here are some thoughts on how a changed political calculus may affect the Postal Service.
Postal Reform Legislation
With the election giving Republicans control of the White House, as well as both houses of Congress, we expect the leaders in the House and Senate to only address “must-pass” legislation (such as funding the government) in the limited number of legislative days available in the “lame duck” session that began yesterday. This means any substantive legislation will probably wait until January when the new administration takes office. There remains a slim chance of postal reform being included in a funding bill between now and the end of the year, but we are still waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to “score” the primary House postal bill. Unless that happens soon, it’s likely we will need to begin the push for reform anew with the next Congress.
The news about postal reform isn’t all bad. We did make progress this year. The House Government Reform and Senate Government Affairs Committees engaged with a coalition of postal stakeholders (representing the mailing industry, USPS unions, and USPS management) to move legislation forward. The House Committee passed a bill that addressed many of the common concerns of the stakeholders including restructuring USPS healthcare obligations (integration of USPS retirees into Medicare, more logical amortization of obligations), use of USPS demographics to determine pension and retiree healthcare obligations, and revised rules for the investment of pension and retiree healthcare funds.
If we don’t see reform pass yet this year, the House bill will give us a good starting point for pushing it over the finish line in 2017. We should also see the same committee chairs and ranking members return in both the House and Senate next year. This will mean we won’t need to educate new committee leaders and staff on the nuances and importance of postal reform.
Ongoing Washington gridlock has led to the near extinction of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. The board should consist of nine presidentially-appointed members plus the Postmaster General (PMG) and Deputy Postmaster General (DPMG). However, other than the PMG and DPMG, it is down to its last presidentially-appointed member whose term expires in December. The Senate currently has six individuals awaiting confirmation to the board, and there is talk the Senate may act on a few before the end of the year to ensure the board isn’t reduced to just members of the USPS executive leadership team. Any nominations not confirmed by the end of the year will lapse, and the new administration will need to make new appointments. We are hopeful that a Republican-led Senate will be able to quickly confirm appointments made by a President of the same party.
The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has also been working short-handed, with only four of the five commissioner positions filled. As the Commission is launching its review of postal rate making in December (more on that in another post), it is essential that the PRC has its full complement of members to accomplish this important task.
President Obama has re-nominated Commissioner Mark Acton, whose term is coming to an end, and nominated acting chairman Robert Taub for a new term as the official chairman. No nomination has been made for the open seat. As with the Board of Governors, any nominations not confirmed by the Senate by the end of the year will lapse, and the new administration will need to make new appointments. We are hopeful that the new administration will move quickly to make any necessary nominations to ensure the PRC is back up to full strength, and the Senate will be able to quickly confirm appointments made by a President of the same party.
We will continue to monitor postal reform legislation and appointments throughout the lame duck session and share any news of breakthroughs. Thanks for reading SpeakingDIRECT and be sure to reach out to me with any questions about postal policy.
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