Chaffetz: Postal reform bill needed to reform ‘unsustainable’ trajectory

After years of pressuring from the Postal Service and a series of stalled bipartisan bills, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has made postal ...

After years of pressuring from the Postal Service and a series of stalled bipartisan bills, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has made postal reform a top priority for this Congress.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee’s chairman, told lawmakers Tuesday at a goal-setting organizational meeting that last year’s efforts served as a “good starting point” for getting a postal reform bill on President Donald Trump’s desk within the next two years.

“They’re on a financial trajectory that is unsustainable and we need to engage in bipartisan postal reform,” Chaffetz said.

Despite an increase in revenue this year, the Postal Service posted a $5.6 billion loss for fiscal 2016. Since 2006, USPS has been required by Congress to pre-fund retiree health benefits. In FY 2016, that meant a $5.8 billion payment that dwarfed its controllable income of $610 million.

Postal reform legislation sponsored by Chaffetz made it out of the Oversight committee last year, but never received a vote on the House floor. The bill would integrate USPS’ health benefits program with Medicare and reduce the financial burden of pre-funding benefits mandate.

The bill received backing from Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) as well as Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)

“Postal reform in a bipartisan way that gets to the President’s desk is something that is certainly a goal for this committee,” Chaffetz said.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has also advocated for postal reform through his 2015 iPOST legislation, which would also substantially reduce the USPS’ obligation to pre-funding benefits. A spokesperson told Federal News Radio that Carper has been encouraged by the momentum on postal reform.

“He is hopeful that Congress will be able to build upon the bipartisan progress made on postal reform between key leaders in the House and the Senate in the final moments of the last Congress to make comprehensive postal reform a reality, and he is encouraged by reports that his colleagues in the House have stated their intention to move postal reform in that chamber rapidly,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “While Senator Carper is adjusting to his new leadership role at the [Environment and Public Works] Committee, postal reform continues to be one of his priorities in Congress.”

The National Association of Letter Carriers applauded Chaffetz for making postal reform a priority for this Congress.

“We are aware of the priorities expressed, and we hope to work constructively with the chairman and other members on all the matters that affect federal and postal employees.  We are very encouraged with the progress made on constructive postal reform during the last Congress,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said in a statement to Federal News Radio.  “With some very minor tweaks, we believe it offers an early opportunity for Congress to legislate in a broad, bipartisan manner.”

At the committee meeting, Chaffetz said he supported the President’s move toward reducing the size of the federal workforce, but supported a target approach over an across-the-board freeze.

“I support and applaud the President for the overall goal, but let’s also understand there’s certain departments and agencies that do need more employees,” Chaffetz said.

The Postal Service does not receive congressional funds for its annual budget.

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