Media groups petitions high court in Congressional constitutional violation

Jun 1, 2022

A group of organizations representing mail users has argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that Congress has punted decisions it should have made to the Postal Regulatory Commission. In so doing, Congress has violated the Constitutional prohibition against nondelegation of legislative powers to the executive branch.

The National Newspaper Association, News Media Alliance, the National Postal Policy Council (a group of First-Class mail users) and others have challenged the PRC’s decision to change the way postal rates are set. The Commission, in a review begun in 2016 under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, effectively lifted the inflation-based price cap on postage rates and gave the U.S. Postal Service authority to implement steeper increases.

The PRC argued successfully to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that Congress had given the PRC nine objectives to consider in constructing a rate scheme and that it had properly carried out its duties. NNA and others have asked the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit decision.

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma, said NNA’s petition to the high court was an expression of the organization’s belief that the courts should clarify the extent of the PRC’s authority.

“The courts have long given agencies deference in their regulatory powers,” he said, “but in this case, we are talking to a Supreme Court that already has misgivings about the way Congress pushes hard decisions into the agencies when it cannot resolve important matters. In the postal case, the PRC has nine objectives to consider in setting up the rate process, but none of them amount to a standard, a prioritization of conflicting concerns or actual direction to the agency on the rules of the road. This ambiguity is a problem for us because we are now facing much higher postal rates under a federal law that was intended to operate as a price cap. We have great respect for the PRC’s important job, but we think we — the mailing community and the Postal Service, as well as the PRC— will benefit from a clear judicial ruling on the scope of its powers. We hope the Court decides to take the case.”