House Oversight clears postal bill on party-line vote

Still, Issa also made clear that there was a limit to how far he was willing to move on the issue. “Legislation that does not include cost-cutting measures or adopts provisions that would force USPS to be frozen at its current size in perpetuity will only further harm the agency as America’s reliance on paper mail continues to fade,” the California Republican said.

Cummings and other Democrats did give Issa and his GOP colleagues some credit for taking less of a hard line. But the Maryland Democrat also criticized Republicans for once again passing a partisan bill, after the GOP voted down Cummings’s alternative proposal.

“As the bill moves to the House floor, I continue to believe that we can and should pass a bipartisan bill that has the support of both Democrats and Republicans, that provides the Postal Service with the flexibility it needs to address its financial challenges, that ensures that customers continue to receive the service they expect, and that right-sizes the Postal Service’s workforce with the compassion these employees have earned,” Cummings said.

In a marathon markup, Republicans and Democrats debated a slew of provisions that proponents hope would stem the bleeding for an agency that lost close to $16 billion in fiscal 2012, including an Issa proposal to shift steadily away from door-to-door delivery to centralized clusterboxes.

That shift, Oversight Republicans said, could result in $4 billion worth of annual savings on its own, but Democrats said the proposal would be unworkable in certain parts of the country and a burden on some customers.

The GOP bill – cosponsored by Reps. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdCybersecurity pros take first peek at once secretive process behind US hacking toolkit White House discloses secretive decision process for growing hacking toolkit GOP tax bill hits professional sports stadium bonds MORE (R-Texas) and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) – would also keep only Saturday delivery of packages, and would hit the pause button on required prepayments for future retiree healthcare.

Defaults on two of those payments – to the tune of some $11 billion – accounted for more than two-thirds of the USPS losses in 2012. Package delivery, meanwhile, is a growing part of the Postal Service’s business, with first-class mail volume in steep decline since 2006.

Republicans sought to give the Postal Service new revenue opportunities as well, including the chance to sell fishing licenses, and would temporarily bring in a group of executives with wide cost-cutting capabilities to displace the Board of Governors. After facing some skepticism from rural Republicans about his previous effort, Issa also included a proposal to limit closures of rural post offices.

During the amendment process, the committee also accepted proposals to limit non-cash bonuses to postal executives, and to give communities more input into the delivery process.

Cummings’ proposal – which was offered as a substitute, and voted down on party lines – would have opened more revenue streams to USPS, and likely offer more relief to the required prepayments. Democrats also had issues with the labor provisions in the GOP bill, even after Issa abandoned a proposal to immediately reopen collective bargaining agreements.

“Lawmakers should fix the problems they created, not make counterproductive reductions in service to America’s businesses and residents,” Fredric Rolando, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in a statement.