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Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

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Date:
Location: Washington DC


POSTAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND ENHANCEMENT ACT -- (House of Representatives - July 26, 2005)

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Mr. PENCE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today to offer the Pence amendment to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and, along with several of my colleagues, will endeavor to bring real reform and real enhancement to a bill however well conceived and well intentioned by my colleagues. In fact, I rise today to begin by thanking the gentleman from Virginia (Chairman Tom Davis) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. McHugh), the author of this legislation, for their leadership on this measure and their sincerity in attempting to ensure the ongoing vitality of the U.S. Postal Service and the tradition that it has enjoyed in this Nation, an invaluable part of our economy since before our Nation was formed.

But before I get to the substance of the Pence amendment, Mr. Chairman, I want to begin to address the reasons why the Bush administration did today issue a Statement of Administration Policy opposing significant portions of this legislation and, in fact, suggesting that if this legislation did not achieve the objective of budget restraint and fiscal reform, that the President's advisers would encourage him to veto this legislation that will come before the House today.

A few observations from the report on the President's Commission of the United States Postal Service are in order. The Commission found that the number one problem facing the United States Postal Service is its complete inability to control costs, and ratepayers have been paying the freight as a result of that along with taxpayers, who recently financed nearly $7 billion in a Postal Service bailout just a few short years ago. Of that uncontrollable cost, 80 percent of the United States Postal Service costs are constituted in labor, this in a competitive marketplace where its competitors like UPS and FedEx spend only 56 percent and 42 percent of their cost on labor. Clearly the United States Postal Service is, as the President's Commission found, desperately in need of flexibility to achieve labor and workforce reforms.

The USPS is currently providing its workers roughly $870 million more in benefits than Federal workers receive as a result of lucrative health and life insurance benefits, and that is just the beginning.

H.R. 22 that we will consider today contains none of the main collective bargaining proposals offered by the President's Commission. It contains none of the reforms offered by the Commission to establish a BRAC-style process to consolidate and shut down facilities that use money. And while H.R. 22 does laudably contain a cap on postal rate increases, many are highly skeptical about how that will work. The Congressional Budget Office states that the USPS will ``increase rates ..... more frequently than under current law, but by smaller increments.'' In addition, the cap could be blown if such an increase were ``reasonable and equitable and necessary'' for the continuation of services. Such a cap hardly equips the U.S. Postal Service with the tools to control costs and renegotiate its labor costs.

So we come today, a series of us, with the kind of reforms that we believe will give the Postal Service the opportunity and the flexibility to achieve reforms necessary to live within its means. That is why I submitted an amendment to enact the Commission's recommendation to ensure that health care and pension benefits ought to be a part of normal collective bargaining. It was rejected and will not be considered today. That is why the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. McHenry) had offered an amendment to enact the Commission's recommendation to reform the workmen's compensation reforms to align more closely with the private sector. Unfortunately, these amendments were made not in order.

In fact, today the Pence amendment will deal with a provision of this legislation that, believe it or not, would set aside a seat on the Board of Governors specifically for an individual unanimously approved by all labor unions. More on that in a moment.

I say this with deep respect, Mr. Chairman. I understand why the Democratic minority whip just said on this floor that this was ``a good bill that should be passed this year.'' I just do not understand why a Republican majority in Congress, with the firm and clear opposition of a Republican President, would do likewise.

Let me get to the substance of the Pence amendment, if I may. The Pence amendment essentially removes a provision of H.R. 22 that requires that the first vacant slot on the Board of Governors literally be filled by an individual with the unanimous backing of ``all labor organizations.'' The headlines today would attest that it might be difficult, depending on the definition of ``all labor organizations,'' to get all labor organizations to agree on anything these days.

Currently the Board of Governors consists of nine members with no more than five from the same party. This bill would ensure that one of these seats would be set aside to represent the interests of one special interest group to the exclusion of other interests like mailers or, dare I say it, taxpayers. It is this type of provision that we must confront in this legislation, and the Pence amendment humbly seeks to strike that.

And workforce is the issue. Mr. Chairman, the U.S. Postal Service is the second largest employer in the United States, second only to Wal-Mart. And according to the President's Commission report, 3 out of every $4 earned by the Postal Service went to pay wages and benefits of its employees in fiscal year 2002. The unions have been extraordinarily effective over the last 25 years, as has been said over and over again, preventing layoffs and recently announcing having inked the second largest pay increase in the unions' history. I believe that is why the Statement of Administration Policy that was issued today simply read, and I quote, ``Should the final bill have such an adverse impact on the federal budget, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.''

The Pence amendment is all about bringing the kind of reforms in this bill that will allow the U.S. Postal Service to maintain its vitality and its fiscal integrity for years to come. The Pence amendment in its effort to strike section 401 is a modest effort to achieve that goal.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PENCE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thank the members of the committee, especially the author of this bill, for their sincerity of purpose and civility in this debate. I also thank my colleagues who have risen in support of the Pence amendment, which, again, simply removes the provision of H.R. 22 that requires that the first vacant slot on the Board of Governors be filled by an individual with unanimous backing by all labor organizations.

The Pence amendment is supported by National Right to Work, by Americans For Tax Reform. We already have fairness on the board, Mr. Chairman: five members of one political party, the party in power in the White House, and four members appointed by the other political party. We do not need a tie-breaker member that is selected by the unanimous consent of all the labor unions.

If we are going to achieve the labor and workforce reforms necessary to restore efficiency to the Postal Service and ensure its vitality in the 21st century, we must ensure that those reforms are not stymied by a reserved seat for labor unions on the postal board.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. PENCE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Flake amendment. There are 38,000 post offices, stations and branches in the U.S. Postal Service. The Flake amendment contemplates a pilot program that would affect 20 communities.

By my bad math, that is about 1/20 of 1 percent of the communities that are served by 38,000 post offices, stations and branches. But that is an unacceptable reform.

I rise with great respect to the gentleman from California (Mr. Waxman), who has been a champion of postal reform for much longer than I have been in Congress. I do respect the gentleman and have great respect for the chairman. It is lost on me why we cannot say, in the name of reform, in the greatest free-market economy in the history of the world, that we will allow for competition in 20 pilot programs to run out inefficiencies and to bring innovation and new ideas to the delivery of postal services.

The Flake amendment is just simply that; 38,000 post offices, stations and branches. The Flake amendment asks humbly that we identify 20 communities to test the feasibility and desirability of alternative methods of delivery of postal services, and this reform bill and its reformers oppose that pilot program.

Let us bring real reform to reform. If we cannot, let us introduce a pilot program where reform and the ideas of reform might be able to take hold to create a truly diverse 21st century postal delivery system for America.

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