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Election-Year Politics Holding Up Postal Reform

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Letter carrier Felipe Raymundo moves a tray of mail to his truck to begin delivery Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, at a post office in Seattle. The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service said Monday it is seeking to move quickly to close 252 mail processing centers and slow first-class delivery next spring, citing steadily declining mail volume. The cuts are part of $3 billion in reductions aimed at helping the agency avert bankruptcy next year. The plant closures are expected to result in the elimination of roughly 28,000 jobs nationwide. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Postal reform has fallen victim to pre-election politics with key lawmakers in both parties blaming the other side for stalling.

Republican Reps. Darrell Issa and Dennis Ross introduced a House bill to allow the postal service to close post offices and renegotiate labor contracts. But shuttering post offices a month before the elections is not a politically popular outcome, especially in rural congressional districts where the next closest office could be miles away.

So rather than pushing to get his bill to the floor, Issa sent a letter to President Barack Obama Sept. 7, asking for some reforms to be included in the continuing resolution the House passed last week. (They weren't).

Issa then took to trashing the Senate-passed reform bill saying, "the current Senate bill makes it worse. We see no opportunity for any compromise with the Senate."

But for reform to pass, the House and Senate will have to negotiate at some point, making Issa's recent hardline look more like political posturing than positioning.

Ross took a more nuanced approach than Issa saying, "I believe there is opportunity for compromise if we can get a version out of the House. There is no question in my mind. But I think before the election, it's going to be impossible to get it done. It's going to be a lame duck issue."

Meanwhile, postal reformer Democratic Sen. Tom Carper argued that the House has to take up the hard work of passing a bill "allowing us to reconcile our bills in conference."

The Senate version of a postal reform bill passed in April, which included $11 million to help the U.S. Postal Service avoid default, but it in August, it defaulted for the first time in its history.

Business groups have been lobbying hard to get the House to pass a bill and go to conference.They've pretty much given up on action before the election and are focusing their efforts on the lame duck.

"Candidly, for this period of time, we've had a few conversations with people but no one is focused on postal right now," Ben Cooper, co-manager of the pro-postal reform Coalition for 21st Century Postal Service told the Alley. "It's that season where, unless you're talking about getting re-elected, there's really not a lot of space in the brain to talk about other issues."

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