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Postal Code Blue
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
One of my favorite television series was “ER,” a 15-seasons-long medical drama that aired on NBC between 1994 and 2009. Over the course of the series, I can’t fathom the number of times I heard the term “code blue” shouted by one of the program’s doctors or nurses.
In medical jargon, the term “code blue” alerts hospital personnel that a patient requires immediate resuscitation because of a medical crisis. Unless Congress acts, those who bleed “Postal Blue” will need to call a code blue.
On Oct. 15, House Oversight and Reform Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) convened a postal oversight hearing in Chicago to review postal performance. The hearing focused on the historically poor on-time performance in the Chicago metropolitan area.
Thirteen members of Illinois’ congressional delegation and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin participated in the hearing. Also testifying were Chicago’s new acting postmaster, a regional officer of the National Association of Letter Carriers and the deputy assistant Inspector General for the Postal Service.
One of the key legislative take-aways from the hearing was that Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) announced she planned to introduce legislation to provide the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) with the authority to suspend Postal Service-initiated operational changes that negatively impact performance, absent clear evidence that such changes benefit the agency and the American public.
In addition, Congress will be carefully watching postal performance during the peak holiday mailing season. Rather than looking at what percentage of mail meets the Postal Service’s newly established performance goals, Congress will be looking at how many days it takes from mail acceptance to mail stream delivery and how that duration compares with previous years.
Despite the enduring financial and operational instability presently characterizing the agency, there is considerable doubt that Washington policymakers will call a code blue for the Postal Service. The only viable legislative vehicle for postal relief, H.R. 3076, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2021,” still was pending in the Ways and Means Committee as this issue went to press in mid-November.
In late October and early November, NAPS’ Massachusetts legislative activists urged Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) to have his committee either vote on H.R. 3076 or discharge it from committee consideration. NAPS members whose representatives sit on the Ways and Means Committee also conveyed a similar message to their members of Congress.
Finally, rank-and-file NAPS members communicated with their representatives, requesting they urge the Ways and Means Committee to report the bill to the House floor. This initiative follows a letter sent by the NAPS resident officers to House leadership, urging them to bring H.R. 3076 up for a floor vote.
We have pointed out this measure would bring financial stability to the Postal Service and promote key NAPS priorities that include repealing the mandate to prefund retiree health premiums, providing fair integration of FEHBP and Medicare for future postal retirees and protecting universal, sustainable and affordable postal products. NAPS has been advised that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is poised to act on the measure once the House passes it.
NAPS Executive Vice President Chuck Mulidore has engaged with numerous key policymakers, including Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters, House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) and staff members of the White House Domestic Policy Council to discuss effective strategies to send postal relief legislation to President Biden’s desk for his signature. These conversations will continue and include a widening universe of key House and Senate legislators.
Tangential to legislation is a looming vacancy on the Postal Board of Governors. As of early November, President Biden had yet to nominate anyone to fill the vacancy created by Chairman Ron Bloom’s expiring term. Also, the likely Senate confirmation of Michael Kubayanda, who was renominated to the PRC, has been delayed. The Nov. 4 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on his renomination was postponed due to Peters attending the funeral of Michigan’s former Rep. Dale Kildee.
Bloom’s term expires on Dec. 8; Kubayanda’s term expired on Nov. 22. It is expected the Senate will confirm Kubayanda in December, but it is unclear what will happen on the Board of Governors.
Finally, NAPS members should prepare for an exciting, instructive and effective 2022 Legislative Training Seminar, March 27-29. We will be rolling out more information about LTS in the coming weeks.
Successfully engaging legislators is our goal. As much as practicable and consistent with accepted health standards, we will seek in-person meetings and presentations. And we will strive to demonstrate how congressional action—or inaction, as we have seen most recently—impacts the American public and, most importantly, NAPS members.
In this election year, we must ensure that elected policymakers seeking our votes and support are clear about NAPS’ legislative priorities. One of the most valuable tactics is to be present and counted among the NAPS delegates attending LTS. We need to ensure that Congress responds to the “Postal Code Blue.”