The Issa/Ross Bill has now been voted out of Committee but it is a long way from finalization. It is a disappointment that the progressive forces were unable to substitute HR 1351 for the regressive legislation intended to break postal unions and continue the long standing practice of using USPS’ revenues as the piggy bank of the federal government. HR 2309 was on a fast track to adoption by the Committee but it was unfortunate that those who supported the Lynch Bill did not immediately discredit the request to GAO as a political stunt.
This political maneuver was similar to the Bush appointment of a Presidential Commission to make recommendations for postal reform. We were able to caste suspicions of a done deal prior to the issuance of the final report, removing it as a defense for draconian change. In this instance, Representatives who wanted to toe the party line were able to cite the GAO report as official review with feigned legitimacy.
Sufficient Co-sponsors (226) have been received to “discharge” HR 1351 from the Issa Committee and be considered by the House but that option faces the Republican majority, a hostile Speaker and the GAO report as cover so even if successful, odds are against its passage.
The next step is for the Speaker to call up the legislation for consideration by the full House. This process will include votes on the rules that will apply to the debate. If the Bill reaches the floor of the House it would be expected to receive a majority vote as the Democrats do not have the numbers to offset the Tea Party’s Support and wavering Republicans who will hide behind the faulty GAO report which is no more conclusive than previous reports by the OIG, PRC and two independent firms.
Senator McCain has introduced S1625 (HR 2309) in the Senate to counter the Carper Bill which is not postal or labor friendly, but does not include the drastic changes. This political maneuvering is intended to influence the outcome of the Senate deliberations requiring the consideration of the anti-labor provisions.
The Senate Committee under Chairman Carper (DE) will call up his Bill on postal reform and in Committee discussions, McCain who is a member of the Committee would be expected to offer S1625 as a substitute. The Democrats outnumber the Republicans on the Committee and can be expected to reject the motion to substitute. Senator Lieberman (CT) is an Independent but caucuses with the Democrats and is influential on the Committee so it is important that the unions get a reading on his positions. This back room political maneuvering is more important than the broadcast approach of asking the membership to contact every Congressperson, friend and foe, including those that will follow the leadership vs. those who are open for persuasion. Much time and resources have been wasted on info commercials and multiple contacts with friends who will support the union’s position or defend against the more radical changes. The issue has never been taxpayer funding but overpayment of the retirement fund.
Following the Senate Committee consideration of the Carper Bill, the resulting legislation will be presented to the Senate for vote. The majority leader, Reid, has a lot of authority on the selection of Bills for Senate consideration and it is not unusual for Bills to die in the House and not be presented to the Senate for vote. If brought up for vote, the Senate rules permit the filibuster which requires 60 votes for consideration.
In that S1625, the McCain substitute and the Carper Bill do not include the refund of the overpayment and Carper has been quoted as saying that “lawmakers should table discussions regarding any CSRS refunds” the only way to include this refund in the Senate discussions is through a substitute amendment by a supporting Senator. With the GAO opinion and Chairman Carper as a signature to the request for their opinion it is unlikely that such an amendment would be successful. So as a legislative strategy it is time to move beyond this issue and salvage what is achievable.
After passage by the House and Senate, unless the Bills considered by each chamber are identical, Committee members are selected to combine the Bills into a single piece of legislation to be voted on by the House and Senate as amended, before submission to the president for signature.