Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Congressional week in review (September 17-21)

The House was on recess this week, while the Senate worked Monday and Tuesday before taking a recess of their own. The Senate returns Monday and will work through the end of October, while the House returns on Tuesday to a very packed schedule as they have only four days to pass a temporary funding measure before the end of the fiscal year.

Senate Activity

On September 19, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced a Senate Resolution (S. Res. 633), identical to the one introduced in the House by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and nine other bipartisan representatives back in July. They both call on Congress to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the Postal Service remain an independent agency of the federal government and not be subject to privatization. As of September 20, 27 Senators have cosponsored the resolution (20 Democrats, 5 Republicans, 2 Independents), but we need 51 cosponsors to achieve a majority. NALC is calling on letter carriers to contact their Senators to cosponsor the resolution.

On September 17, the Senate voted 99-1 to approve H.R. 6, a sweeping package of bills that address the nation’s opioid epidemic. Passed in the House on June 22, the package contains some 70 pieces of legislation including the “The Securing the International Mail against Opioids Act of 2018” (H.R. 5788/S. 3057) a like-for-like replacement for the previously-stalled STOP Act. Ahead of the vote, NALC along with APWU, the NPMHU, and the NRLCA circulated a letter in opposition to the bill. Like the STOP Act, the language approved in H.R. 6 overhauls the international mailing system, forces USPS to require advanced electronic data (AED) on all international shipments by 2020, and imposes harsh penalties on the agency if it fails to comply. As the Senate and House versions differ, they will conference on the differences before voting again and sending the package to the White House for a signature.

Last week, on September 12, House Republicans introduced H.R.6787 a companion bill the Senate-introduced 2018 Reforming Government Act (S. 3137). The bill seeks to give the President increased authority to reorganize the government, including consolidating, transferring, abolishing or creating agencies. According to the legislation, any plans would need to be approved by Congress within 90 days, or they will not advance. The Administration has already proposed privatizing the Postal Service in addition to a number of other ill-conceived moves to “reorganize” the federal government. Even though the Senate bill was introduced in June, it has yet to receive a public hearing or markup.

House Activity

As of September 21, the recently introduced House Resolution 993 (H. Res. 993), which calls on Congress to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the Postal Service remain an independent agency of the federal government and not be subject to privatization, has reached 196 cosponsors (160 Democrats, 36 Republicans). Thanks to the hard work from letter carriers across the country, NALC’s latest priority resolution has nearly reached the goal of 218 cosponsors! We can’t stop here though, we need to reach a minimum of 218 cosponsors in the House, which would represent a majority of support for the resolution in the chamber.

Last week, on September 13, Congressional conferees met to iron out differences with H.R. 6147, the appropriations act that, among other departments and agencies, would fund Financial Services and General Government (FSGG). Conferees will consider whether to adopt a 1.9 percent federal employee pay raise included in the Senate’s FY19 FSGG spending bill or follow the President’s lead who announced his intention to rescind the scheduled pay increase for federal employees in 2019.

Judicial Activity

Senate Republicans remain focused on confirming Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose pathway to confirmation appeared clear, but Senate Judiciary Committee investigations have slowed the process and made his rise to the highest court in the land uncertain.

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