Sep 08, 2017
The Postal Reform Act of 2017 (HR 756) and the Postal Service Financial Improvement Act of 2017 (HR 760) remain in limbo, pending additional action in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan bills were introduced back in January followed by a hearing in the spring, and were voted out of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee shortly thereafter.
H.R. 756 continues to await consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, who have jurisdiction over Medicare provisions (Energy and Commerce over Part D, and Ways and Means over Parts A & B). The committees must either waive jurisdiction or schedule a hearing or markup to discuss relevant provisions. But the health care debate took up much of both committees’ attention from spring and leading into recess. Now, both committees are consumed by the prospects of completing tax reform. This leaves postal reform low on their priority list.
The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the U.S. Postal Service’s independent regulatory body, is completing its review of the current rate-setting system, a review that is expected to be done by the end of September or early October.
One wildcard for postal reform could be the rates issue. Currently, the PRC regularly reviews postal rates, but due to consistent quarterly losses and congressional delay on postal reform, it may raise the price of postage stamps as a means of providing financial relief from the costly pre-funding mandate. Should the PRC give the Postal Service the pricing flexibility Postmaster General Brennan has repeatedly called for, rates could be increased in January.
At the moment, the possibility of a rate increase appears to be the only catalyst for congressional action around postal reform this fall. As the resolutions start within the House, it is up to them to take lead while the Senate is waiting to see what it can do. However, should the House not act on reform prior to a rate increase implementation, it could be extremely difficult for legislators to undo a rate hike set by the independent PRC.
The process has a long way to go and it’s hoped that the bipartisan support postal reform enjoys will help move things along. In the meantime, letter carriers need to be vocal and engaging with their congressional representatives to ensure that door delivery and Medicare integration issues are resolved along the way.