Postal regulation nominees: USPS faces ‘very real threat’ to long-term viability

The last time Congress reached a solution on reshaping the Postal Service’s business model, members from both parties thought they had reached a solution that would put the nation’s mail-and-package agency on a sustainable track for the long-term.

But with the Postal Service ending each subsequent year with net losses, and Postmaster General Megan Brennan warning that the agency could run out of cash by 2024, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee asked two longstanding postal experts — both tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as commissioners on the Postal Regulatory Commission — what lawmakers might need to revisit from the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.

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“I just want to ask the basic question: What do you think was the best part of postal reform? What went right, and what went wrong, and why are we still talking about fixing the postal system?” Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asked at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing.

Ann Fisher, the PRC’s director of public affairs and government relations, said a provision in the postal reform law mandating a 10-year USPS rate-setting review by the PRC has come at a critical time for the future of the agency.

“The stakes are very high, considering the Postal Service’s finances. This review has been far more complicated than I would have anticipated,” Fisher said.

The regulatory agency must still finish up its review of the postage rate system, after it found the current system doesn’t allow the Postal Service to raise the revenues it needs or meet its service standards.

Efforts to complete the review stalled last year, she said, when the PRC only had four confirmed commissioners. The Senate confirmed a fifth member, Michael Kubayanda, last December.

Ashley Poling, a staffer for the Senate committee, said USPS finds itself “at a critical crossroads,” and “faces significant financial challenges that pose a very real threat to its long-term viability.”

“The fiscal path that the Postal Service is on is not a sustainable one, but it also has the very real potential for revitalization through needed legislative reforms in Congress.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on government operations, introduced Poling at Tuesday’s hearing.

Members of the House committee have dismissed some recommendations from a White House postal task force, such as downgrading nationwide mail delivery to five days a week instead of six, and easing up USPS’ monopoly on delivering to household mailboxes.

Considering Congress has failed to pass similar versions of the postal reform bill over the last few years, Meadows said it remains a challenge to see a path forward for the Postal Service.

“We have come to rely on this system and it is in a crisis mode. Quite frankly, as a business guy, I don’t know how we solve this,” Meadows said.  I look at the financial stability of where our postal system is, and from a business perspective, it is bankrupt.”

Both Poling and Fisher assuaged concerns from Senators about a financial bailout package for the Postal Service or giving USPS annual congressional appropriations.

“The Postal Service was intended to be self-funding and it should be,” Fisher said.

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