Friday, January 31, 2014

Postal reform vote delayed pending measures to control rate hikes and allow guns in post offices

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday delayed a vote on legislation to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service after members said they needed more time to study a pair of amendments: one on how rate increases are determined, the other allowing citizens to carry guns into post offices, Lisa Rein reports for The Washington Post.

If passed, the bill "would allow the Postal Service to drop Saturday mail delivery, but only after mail volume drops below 140 billion pieces of mail annually. The agency would be able to ship alcohol and enter other lines of business that are currently prohibited." The service wants to continue Saturday delivery of packages, on which it makes money.

An amendment from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), "backed by the powerful mailing industry to strike a plan allowing higher postal rates, appeared to be gaining support," Rein writes. The amendment is in response to language by committee chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and its ranking Republican member, Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), that would allow the Postal Service to set its own prices beginning in 2017, Eric Katz reports for Government Executive.

"The Postal Service recently won a surcharge on that rate from regulators, who allowed a 3-cent jump in the price of first-class letters and other mail that took effect Monday," Rein writes. "The surcharge would last two years, raising $2.8 billion to help the Postal Service recoup revenue it lost during the recession." But Carper and Coburn "agreed to language that would allow that increase to be permanent and raise the annual price cap from inflation to inflation plus 1 percent. The Postal Service’s governing board also would have some authority to override rulings by regulators on rate increases."

Baldwin said the plan would give the Postal Service too much power: “No public or quasi-public entity, especially one with monopoly power, should have near-absolute control in setting its own prices. It’s wrong.” But Coburn said the amendment "would effectively kill the bill by leaving the mail agency in the red."

The sponsor of the other amendment, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), said his amendment "would allow licensed gun owners to carry weapons inside post offices, rather than having to un-holster them and keep them in the car." Guns are banned in federal buildings. (Read more)

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