Postal Reform Still Possible

We were this close to passing a key postal reform bill before Congress adjourned last Friday. It's not a perfect bill, from my viewpoint. But it is a good starting point. And the main reason we didn't pass it – because some members said they had not had a chance to review it – is easily fixable by the time Congress reconvenes in mid-November. The Senate passed its version of the bill in February. The House passed a postal reform bill in July 2005. We've yet to appoint negotiators to work out the differences in the bills. But from where I stand, enough of the interests involved – mailers, post office employees, government officials and others – want to see progress this time that I'm optimistic something will happen this year.

We opened our millionth new post office in 2005, but mailing volume declined. And USPS' business model continues to be based on the economic conditions of the 1970s, before email, Fed-Ex or 28-seconds-per-page fax machines existed. Our choice now is continued rate increases as far as the eye can see – which David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, rightfully calls a "death spiral," – or reform that moves the postal service toward a new way of doing business.

To be sure, hangups remain. Most concern rules for postal rate increases and workers compensation policies. But the momentum is there. I support getting something done this year, and so does Henry Waxman, ranking member of the Government Reform Committee that I chair and our colleagues in the Senate. Don't write us off just yet.