Republicans block HR 2382

Jan 1, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The days before Congress makes big spending decisions are traditionally the most active for NNA’s Congressional Action Team. That is when House and Senate leadership get serious about packaging bills that are in their queue into one giant measure for an up-or-down vote.

It is also traditionally when measures that affect the U.S. Postal Service are passed — or not passed. The CAT’s archives in December chalked up one more big effort to improve the odds for maintaining universal service across the United States. But its efforts came to naught as Republicans blocked a bill NNA had supported.

NNA President Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget, said the CAT had been called to action to help boost HR 2382, a bill that would have repealed a health care prefunding provision that has burdened USPS since 2007. The measure left USPS with more than $50 billion in unpaid bills on its balance sheet, as its financial situation had worsened and the Postmaster General declared an inability to pay an annual assessment of $5 billion to prepay for future retiree benefits.

After a push by NNA and allies this fall to garner sponsors for the bill, the provision had 299 signers, including more than 60 Republicans. Dubbed the USPS Fairness Act, the bill would have had no impact upon the federal deficit because it repealed a requirement that USPS was unable to meet anyway. That neutral impact was a major factor in many Republicans’ decisions to sign on.

As a $500 billion federal appropriations bill was being crafted late one Saturday night in December, NNA members who had previously reached out to their members of Congress for support of HR 2382 asked for renewed support so that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate negotiators would recognize the value of the bill.

But the late evening foray into legislative affairs failed. Not enough momentum gathered to overcome well-known objections by Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the recognized postal leader for Republicans in the House.

“We have not yet been told exactly what the objection was,” Adelman said, “but given the past statements by both GOP leaders that the bill does not go far enough, we assume that HR 2382 simply never got their support. NNA’s assessment of that bill was that taking one positive step was better than doing nothing. But we recognize that our view has not been shared by some.

“We understand that Meadows, at least, wants to see a more comprehensive reform bill before moving forward. We are awaiting his authorship of one so we can assess our next steps.

“But we gained some valuable traction in our effort this year. Among the lessons for our CAT was a reminder of how important it is to develop relationships with Congressional offices in calmer times, well before a hectic year-end frenzy of bill writing begins. Even though we may have explained our views in the past, when the fur is flying on Capitol Hill, we can’t expect the Congressional folks to remember all of these details. So we are on standby for exercises like the one around HR 2382. It is one reason why NNA is so effective.”

Meanwhile, a proposal is now pending by the Postal Regulatory Commission to cover the USPS liabilities with increases of postage rates that could amount to more than 40% increases over five years for newspaper mailers. The PRC has revised a 2017 proposal that is directed at ensuring a continuation of postal services by requiring funding by mailers. Comments are due on the proposal in early February.

Adelman said NNA would file a response pointing out that steep rate increases would accelerate the decline of the U.S. Postal Service.

“Fixing USPS is Congress’ work to do,” Adelman said. “Neither they nor the regulators can seriously expect businesses in the extremely challenged hard-copy business to absorb the massive debt that USPS now carries. It would threaten not only our businesses but the future of universal service.”

Tonda Rush is the director of public policy and serves as general counsel to the National Newspaper Association. Email her at