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House committee to debate postal overhaul bill Wednesday

Jul. 19, 2013 - 05:56PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
USPS Hearing MWM 20130213
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is sponsor of a bill to overhaul U.S. Postal Service operations. The bill is scheduled for debate Wednesday. (Mike Morones/Staff)

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A House panel will take up legislation Wednesday that would let the U.S. Postal Service end Saturday mail delivery and would relieve the cash-strapped carrier of its obligation to pre-pay billions of dollars for future retirees’ health care.

The 140-page bill, sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., would also bar no-layoff protections in future contracts for unionized workers, let the Postal Service sell advertising space on its vast vehicle fleet and replace the existing part-time USPS board of governors with a team of five full-time executives until the agency starts turning a profit.

The bill’s “common-sense reforms” will restore the Postal Service to long-term financial solvency while maintaining “high-quality universal service,” Issa said in a Friday news release accompanying the bill’s introduction.

Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose

mark-up Wednesday is the first attempt this year to move legislation aimed at overhauling the Postal Service.

The bill builds on months of bipartisan discussions and incorporates ideas from both sides of the aisle, Issa said in the release. The measure, for example, includes a proposal by the oversight committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, to create the job of USPS chief innovation officer. Issa has also dropped a controversial provision that could have forced postal unions to give up no-layoff safeguards in existing contracts.

But while the Postal Service says that halting Saturday delivery would save about $2 billion annually, letter carrier unions are fiercely opposed. Cummings, who introduced a rival measure earlier this week, has previously opposed ending Saturday delivery and has criticized a separate provision in Issa’s plan that would end most door-to-door delivery in favor of neighborhood “cluster boxes.”

But in a Friday statement, Cummings said he is encouraged by Issa’s willingness to include provisions from his bill. “I believe if we reject extreme measures, we can craft common-sense provisions that wll provide common-ground solutions,” Cummings said.

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