A short-term fix for the nearly insolvent Highway Trust Fund (HTF) floated by the top Republican leaders of the House that would inject it with monies attained by cutting appropriations for the United States Postal Service (USPS)-- itself running in the red— appears en route but fast to the dead-letter office.
In a memo to rank-and-file House GOP members dated Friday, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)along with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) “cast the plan they are crafting as one that would also work to benefit the Postal Service— by granting its request to reduce Saturday delivery service,” reported online news daily GovernmentExecutive.com.
The memo stated that move would enable USPS “to better operate within its own revenue stream," per the GovernmentExecutive.com post, while enabling $10.7 billion in offsets over 10 years to be transferred into the HTF.
The GOP plan would result in eliminating delivery of both first-class mail and bulk mail, such as catalogs and circulars, on Saturdays.
However, a bipartisan majority of at least 220 members has already signaled approval of a House Resolution (H.Res.30) that states USPS “should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of its six-day mail delivery service.”
Noting that the GOP proposal is “a dicey strategy,” in a Politico.com blog post, author Adam Snider suggested readers not forget “what happened two years ago when a move to cut transit [funds] from the HTF backfired and House members were left passing a shell bill with streamlining provisions just to get to a conference with the Senate.”
Certainly, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) minced no words in her assessment of the GOP fix.
“Instead of working with Democrats to come up with a sensible user fee, which has been the foundation of the Highway Trust Fund, House Republican Leadership proposes cutting back mail deliveries to American households,” Boxer said in a statement. “This idea is a jobs killer which does not even fund the Highway Trust Fund for a long enough period of time to provide the certainty that states, cities, and businesses need.
“…If the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee can do its job and pass a bill unanimously, then surely the House can begin to do the work needed to solve this problem -- and not kick the can down the road with a totally unrelated and unworkable idea,” she added.
Sen. Tom Carper, (D-DE) chairman of the EPW transportation panel, wasn’t having it, either. “The hard truth is that moving to a five-day delivery schedule isn’t enough on its own to save the Highway Trust Fund or the U.S. Postal Service,” he said in a statement. “The numbers just don’t add up.
“Furthermore,” Carper continued, “using permanent policy changes, like moving to five-day delivery, as a short-term funding band-aid is not responsible leadership. We have been relying on short-term patches to fund the Highway Trust Fund since 2009 and it’s both ineffective and expensive.”
And Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO, derided the plan as nothing less than a “shell game.”
“It’s a political cop-out," Rolando stated. "House GOP leaders want to raid the Postal Service because there is not enough money in the Highway Trust Fund to pay for projects they want to fund. Instead of making hard choices about highway spending in an election year, some in Congress would rather resort to accounting tricks.
“This plan would begin dismantling the Postal Service, an agency that’s based in the Constitution and provides Americans with the world’s most-affordable delivery service," he elaborated.
“The USPS has been operationally profitable since October 2012; degrading service would drive mail out of the system, thereby stopping the postal turnaround in its tracks and achieving the exact opposite of what proponents of this legislative maneuver claim it would do,” Rolando concluded.
On the other hand, response so far to the plan by trucking stakeholders is, well, muted.
However, American Trucking Assns. (ATA) spokesperson Sean McNally did reply to our query on how trucking’s biggest lobby views the GOP plan.
McNally told FleetOwner that “ATA is pleased that House leaders are considering options for preventing a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.
“We encourage Members on both sides of the Capitol to adopt a bipartisan solution to the short-term crisis facing the Fund prior to the August recess and, at the same time, work toward a strategy that addresses the surface transportation program’s long-term solvency,” he added.