APWU News July 9, 2014 – Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, can’t seem to give up his quest to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.
On July 8, upset that the House Appropriations Committee restored protection for six-day delivery to a funding bill, the California Republican tried to employ a parliamentary maneuver to derail the measure.
In a message to House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), Issa claimed jurisdiction over all issues related to the Postal Service, and asserted that the six-day delivery provision should be subject to a House Rule that prohibits “legislation” in general appropriations bills.
“Rep. Issa’s complaint would be comical if it wasn’t such a serious attack on the people’s Postal Service,” said Legislative and Political Director John Marcotte. “In addition to protecting six-day delivery, the appropriations bill reverses the District of Columbia’s laws on marijuana possession, dictates how its locally-generated tax monies can be used, and takes away health care choices for women in the district.
“No matter how you feel about these issues, the irony is that they all fall under the purview of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But Rep. Issa didn’t let out a whimper of protest against these examples of ‘legislating’ via the Appropriations Bill. The hypocrisy is stunning but not unusual for Mr. Issa,” Marcotte said.
“Mr. Issa is not satisfied with using his authority as chairman to damage the USPS by blocking quality postal reform,” he added. “He is now trying to use parliamentary tricks to overturn a bipartisan vote saving six-day delivery. The public pays little attention to the House Rules Committee, but Issa’s moves are critically important because he is leading the charge in the House to dismantle the Postal Service.”
The Congressional Budget Office has released its estimate of the budget impact of Darrell Issa’s postal bill, HR 2748. The bill would reduce USPS expenses by
eliminating Saturday mail delivery
reducing benefits to postal workers and retirees
eliminating home delivery of mail for some customers
changing the pre-funding formula for USPS future retiree health benefits
The CBO says that those measures would save the USPS $23.6 billion over the next ten years. The estimate assumes that customers would be willing to pay increased rates for the reduced services the USPS would offer in the future. The Issa bill would also shift $6.6 billion in costa to the taxpayer, increasing the federal budget deficit. (Apparently it’s not a “bailout” if Congressman Issa proposes it?)
The postal service wasn’t on the agenda at Monday’s session of the Issa House Oversight Committee, but what happened at the latest of Issa’s IRS/Benghazi show trials goes a long way towards explaining why the committee, and the House as a whole, are unable to deal with postal reform- or much else, aside from making a mockery of the legislative process. From Roll Call:
Darrell Issa signals an aide to silence Rep. Elijah Cummings’ microphone at one of his “hearings”
Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee went after IRS Commissioner John Koskinen again Monday, while Democrats on the panel reserved much of their ire for Chairman Darrell Issa. Issa, involved in a high-profile clash earlier this year with Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the panel, was criticized repeatedly during Monday’s hearing by Democrats who dismissed the proceeding as election-year posturing.
At one point, the California Republican warned Democrats that House rules forbid members from questioning the integrity or motives of other members — touching off a heated protest from Rep. Steven Horsford. The Nevada Democrat angrily contrasted Issa’s admonition Monday with the March 5 incident, in which Cummings’ microphone was turned off mid-statement on Issa’s orders. Issa repeatedly cut Horsford off, insisting the lawmaker “state a point of parliamentary inquiry,” until Cummings broke in and asked the chairman to “Let him ask the question.”
I should clarify right at the outset that this story is apparently real, not something from The Onion, or Andy Borowitz. The story comes from “The Blaze”, the site that is home to creatures like Glenn Beck, and which today features a story headlined “Woman Claims She Was Ordered to Stop Dancing Because She’s White”. No, really- it’s not The Onion! You can tell, because the white lady dancing story is written with a complete lack of irony.
Anyway, The Blaze’s story has actual documentation attached to it, detailing how Congressman Darrell Issa, who was recently deprived of his favorite toy (the Benghazi witch hunt), has decided to replace it with an investigation into the investigation into the deaths (or non-deaths) of several protected birds during a tree trimming operation at a post office.
Let me repeat- this is not a parody- this is real:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Wednesday launched an investigation into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s attempt to bring criminal changes against a California tree trimmer.
In early May, Ernesto Pulido was hired by the U.S. Postal Service in Oakland, California, to cut a few tree limbs. Birds were sitting on the limbs and defecating on the mail trucks.
Now Darrell can’t actually announce that he’s doing this because someone else has been assigned the task of keeping BENGHAZI!!! in the headlines until the elections, so he came up with an alternate justification:
Issa criticized the FWS’s actions, in particular because of the many examples Issa’s committee has seen of government deciding not to prosecute other government agencies. He cited activities such as watching pornography on the job
May 21, 2014—Statement of Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, following the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s approval of H.R. 4670, the Secure Delivery for America Act of 2014:
This irresponsible bill, H.R. 4670, is bad for the American public, bad for businesses, bad for the economy and bad for the U.S. Postal Service. And it simply ignores reality. Postal finances are steadily improving as the economy recovers from the worst recession in 80 years and as increasing online shopping sends package revenue soaring. This year, the Postal Service has reported a $1 billion operating profit.
We are confident that the majority of lawmakers will understand that degrading a now-profitable postal network not only makes no sense, it would stop the postal turnaround by driving mail — and revenue — out of the system. It would inconvenience millions of Americans and small businesses. And it would weaken the personal contact between residents and letter carriers — a bond that not only has led the public to name letter carriers the most trusted federal employees year after year, but also has resulted in the saving of countless lives as letter carriers deliver the mail.
This legislation entirely misses the point — 100 percent of USPS “losses” stem directly from the congressional mandate that the Postal Service, alone among all public agencies and private companies, pre-fund future retiree health benefits for decades into the future.
Lawmakers should fix what they broke, not break what’s working. We will work with members on both sides of the aisle to craft a bill that would help maintain and strengthen the Postal Service, which is based in the Constitution and provides Americans with the world’s most affordable delivery network without a dime of taxpayer money.
Congressman Darrell Issa, the self-appointed “watchdog” of the US Postal Service, has introduced yet another “reform” proposal. So far, none of Issa’s proposals have gotten much support, even from his own party- whether or not this one does remains to be seen.
Issa is obviously desperate to get someone, anyone, to back him. How desperate? He’s dropped the most outrageous provisions of his earlier bills, like the one that would have laid off any postal worker eligible for retirement, and he’s come up with what I’m sure he considers a master stroke- he claims his bill is actually Barack Obama’s idea.
Don’t believe me? According to the draft version, the bill’s title is “The Administration’s Postal Reform Act of 2014”. (You can’t make this stuff up!) Presumably he will present the bill as an incredibly clever “gotcha” moment that will provide him with some especially snide remarks to make at his next show trial committee hearing.
So what’s actually in “The Administration”‘s bill? A couple of items that have appeared in the administration’s budget proposals (but which have never actually been introduced as legislation), like allowing five day delivery, and some that the administration has expressed some support for, like reducing the PAEA trust fund mandate. But the items that will no doubt attract the most attention are ones that Issa himself admits were never proposed by “the Administration”:
The bill would allow the USPS to drop Saturday mail delivery, but would also allow “periodicals, newspapers and unstamped mail to be placed in mailboxes on days when the Postal Service does not provide mail delivery service“.
Requires the Postal Service to convert residential addresses from door delivery to curbside or centralized delivery on a voluntary basis where possible and authorizes the Postal Service to require such conversions in areas the Postal Service “deems appropriate.”
Permits the Postal Service to create a “Legacy Door Delivery Service” that allows residents to pay a fee to continue to receive door delivery if their addresses have been identified for conversion to curbside or centralized delivery.
If Darrell really wanted to pass a postal reform bill, he could do it tomorrow. Allowing the USPS to eventually drop Saturday delivery would be fought by postal workers, but would probably pass, as would reducing the PAEA mandate, allowing centralized delivery for new developments, etc. But if we’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s that Darrell and his party aren’t really interested in proposing legislation that can pass both houses and be signed into law by the President.
So instead of a comprehensive postal reform package, we’ll continue to get bills like this one, designed not to solve problems, but to score points. Even minimal band-aid legislation will probably only become possible if the USPS actually approaches a cash flow crisis that endangers its ability to pay its employees and suppliers. At that point, Speaker Boehner might, as he has on rare occasions in the past, decide it’s better to cut his losses and allow legislation to reach the floor that could pass with the support of the Democrats and a minority of moderate Republicans. You know, by majority vote- the way we were told our Government worked back in Civics class- what a concept!
The four unions representing rank and file postal workers have sent the following letter to Darrel Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Elijah Cummings, the Ranking Member:
Dear Mr. Issa and Mr. Cummings:
We write to share our views on the hearing held on April 8, 2014 on the President’s proposals in the FY 2015 budget regarding the U.S. Postal Service. We write on behalf of nearly 500,000 postal employees who live and work in every Congressional District in America and who belong to our unions. We respectfully request that this letter be included in the record of the hearing. Continue reading →
The Postal Service needs real reform — not the austerity proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the White House, APWU President Mark Dimondstein said after an April 8 hearing by a House committee. The hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Rep. Issa chairs, focused on White House budget items concerning the Postal Service. Unfortunately, Issa found a lot to like in the administration’s proposals.
President Dimondstein’s remarks are below:
“Yesterday’s hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, focused on a White House budget that would harm service, drive away business, and eliminate jobs. It calls for the immediate end of Saturday delivery and would allow the Postal Service to begin to shift from door delivery to centralized delivery. Many of the concepts in the administration’s budget can be found in H.R. 2748, a bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa.
“The proposed budget also fails to eliminate the pre-funding requirement of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which is the fundamental cause of the Postal Service’s manufactured financial crisis. Instead, it would simply restructure the payments. The pre-funding requirement is consistently cited as justification for shuttering mail processing plants, lowering service standards and slowing the mail.
“These budget proposals were first developed in 2011 and have been repeated in proposals since then. They weren’t worthy proposals then and they certainly aren’t now.
“With the Postal Service posting operating profits in mail and package delivery, there is absolutely no justification to continue a strategy of austerity. Instead of damaging the infrastructure and network that is essential for providing service, the Postal Service must expand service. The recent report by USPS Office of Inspector General that endorses offering financial services is the exactly the kind of innovation that is needed.”
TESTIMONY OF BRIAN C. DEESE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET BEFORE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM
April 8, 2014
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Cummings, and members of the Committee, thank you for your invitation to discuss the President’s proposal for reform of the U.S. Postal Service.
The Administration recognizes the value the Postal Service adds to the Nation’s commerce and communications, and its essential role in stitching together the vast expanse of our country and connecting America with the global economy. For years the Postal Service has ranked among the most trusted Federal agencies, and it provides reliable and affordable universal service to millions of Americans. Continue reading →