By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
If you wanted a signal that the lame duck Congress would be unlikely to pass a major postal bill, the notice came from the chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Nov. 30.
“Chaffetz Applauds House Passage of Bill to Improve Mail Delivery,” proclaimed a news release from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
And what was the legislation that provoked this declaration from the House committee that oversees the United States Postal Service?
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It was a measure that “consolidates 10 House-passed postal naming bills” and directs the USPS to “designate single, unique ZIP codes for five communities in Nevada, New York and Florida.”
“I am pleased that this important legislation is one step closer to becoming law,” said Chaffetz.
But the fact that Chaffetz is excited about legislation that addresses something as mundane as designating ZIP codes and naming post offices seems to reinforce the idea that lawmakers would rather deal with tiny postal matters than face up to the big financial worries that the Postal Service faces.
As Stephen Kearney, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, noted in his Dec. 1 newsletter, Congress “has higher priorities” than the USPS’s financial woes on its agenda.
Moreover, Kearney said that the bipartisan support essential for a postal bill seems to be fading.
Chaffetz, he noted, has said he wants to press an investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and Democrats on the panel want to probe investigations of President-elect Donald Trump’s possible conflicts of interest.
Kearney also noted that passage of any postal bill “got more complicated” in mid-November when a group of 27 senators sent a letter saying they are “deeply concerned by the lack of service improvements and protections” in a House postal measure.
The good news, Kearney said, is that the USPS “is nowhere near a financial crisis” thanks to the Postal Service’s belt tightening and stabilizing mail volumes.
“It is quite an accomplishment for the USPS, the PRC [Postal Regulatory Commission] and the existing system that our Postal Service has survived the worst recession since the Great Depression without a law change,” he wrote. “And now the USPS prospers.”