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View From the Hill: Please Mr. Postman

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Legislative Director (View From The Hill Blog 8/17/12)

  AUGUST 18, 2012 --

As promised last week, I wrote up another letter to the Hill regarding postal reform and where the Grange stands on the issue. I’ll post it below in just a second. Obviously, due to August recess, the issue has not progressed at all and remains on the laundry list of things that Congress will have to address upon its September 10th return. Between September 10th and the November 6th election, they have only scheduled 13 working days. Those are sure to be some long, gruesome days, especially since September 30th marks the deadline of some very hot issues.

On September 30th, the USPS is expected to default on a payment to the U.S. Treasury for a second time, provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill expire, and it’s the last day of the fiscal year; meaning Congress either has to pass a budget or another stop-gap measure. That’s a lot of work for anybody, let alone a Congress that has become notorious for their lack of action.

Like I said before, this is a perfect time to contact your representative at their district office to express your concerns and opinions about these and other issues, and, more importantly, how they should be voting on those issues once they get back to D.C. They’re in campaign mode right now; meaning they’re more concerned with keeping their jobs than passing any significant legislation. That sounds harsh but it’s just the nature of the beast. They can’t pass anything if they’re not in office anymore.

So contact your Senators and Representatives over the next few weeks and let them know what you think. In addition, if you’d like to copy and paste my postal reform letter into an email and send it to your legislators, I would encourage you to do so.

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Legislative Director 

The Honorable Joseph Lieberman
Chairman, Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs
U.S. Senate
706 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Darrell Issa
Chairman, Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
2347 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Susan Collins
Ranking Member, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
U.S. Senate
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Elijah Cummings
Ranking Member, Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
2235 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Lieberman, Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Collins, and Ranking Member Cummings:

On behalf of the National Grange, the nation's oldest rural advocacy group, representing over 160,000 members in 2,100 communities across 40 states, I write today with respect to the ongoing financial crisis plaguing the United States Postal Service. While we understand this issue is complex, we must insist that Congress act with the upmost urgency to resolve this matter and return the USPS to a sound financial state. Their recent default of $5.5 billion to the U.S. Treasury and their inevitable default of $5.6 billion in September only substantiate our appeal. Subsequently, it is our request that postal reform legislation include provisions to maintain rural post offices, uphold current delivery standards, and modernize the business model of the USPS. It remains our mission at the National Grange to support and strive for a strong rural America and we believe the sustainment and prosperity of the United States Postal Service is a must if we are to fulfill that most important mission.

In many rural communities across the nation, the post office acts as the center of the community, and is often the primary means of communication. Rural residents, as opposed to those in urban areas, face greater challenges accessing high-speed Internet, retail outlets and access to healthcare and pharmacies; making daily mail delivery essential. Many rural residents, especially elderly individuals with limited mobility, also rely on the USPS to exercise their right to vote.

The National Grange stands opposed to H.R. 2309. While the intensions of the bill seem noble, we feel it does not address the larger issue of reforming or eliminating the current requirement to prepay employee retirement health benefits. Since the mandate’s implementation in 2007, it has drained the USPS of more than $20 billion, accounting for nearly 82% of their financial woes. No other agency, private or public, is subject to such requirements and we feel the USPS should be freed from this burden as well. In addition, the National Grange stands in strong opposition to the bill’s establishment of an unelected board to oversee the closing of thousands of post offices.  Such a board would lack transparency in what should be a democratic, thought-out process.

In the alternative, we urge Congress to reform the business model of the USPS that it may become flexible in the modern business world and develop a competitive culture within its employees. We believe this would be best achieved through the elimination of the prefunding requirement for employee retirement health benefits. Although we understand that some compromises must be made, we also request that Congress strive to maintain 6-day delivery. These and other methods would greatly enhance the financial health of the USPS without impacting the livelihood of our nation’s rural communities.

The National Grange has a long history of fighting to establish rural free mail delivery and defend and sustain the mission of the United States Postal Service. It is our hope that Congress will consider the aforementioned as they deliberate postal reform legislation. In addition, if the National Grange could be of assistance on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Grace Boatright, our Legislative Director, at 202-628-3507 ex.114 or at gboatright@nationalgrange.org. Thank you for the opportunity to make comment on this important issue.

Edward L. Luttrell
National Grange President

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe
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