Features Industry Profiles

November 9, 2021 • George White and Rafe MorrisseyGEORGE WHITE
Congress Returns for a Critical Fall Work Period

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Real reform is possible, but challenges persist.

Congress returns this month for the first of two critical work periods. Major issues including massive infrastructure bills, extending the debt ceiling, and funding government operations for the next fiscal year are filling the headlines. Working through these challenges will be difficult, but there are lower profile issues that are nonetheless critical to the greeting card and stationery industries also hanging in the balance.

As we have reported previously, consensus comprehensive postal reform legislation should certainly be on the “must-pass” list as well. In May, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform approved H.R. 3076, The Postal Service Reform Act. While this is the first-time legislation to stabilize United States Postal Service (USPS) finances has been approved by the committee and eligible for passage by Congress in the last three years, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) now faces the challenge of getting her bill to the floor with a limited number of days left in the session and a packed agenda.

A couple things may work in her favor. First, disagreements over the high-profile issues may create unexpected windows for bills that have more bipartisan support, like postal reform. It is also helpful that she has strong backing from her Republican colleague on the committee, Ranking Member Jim Comer (R-TN). Bipartisan agreement is in short supply these days, so anything that can garner support from both sides becomes more attractive. Chairwoman Maloney has been hard at work collecting letters of support from stakeholders, and the Greeting Card Association (GCA) as well as numerous member companies have already weighed in to help her. If you have not yet done so, please consider contacting your Member of Congress. By visiting this link — p2a.co/bzX4wuZ — or texting MAIL to 52886, you can easily register your support quickly.

In addition to the major reform bill, GCA has also been working to support a requirement in the annual government funding legislation that would ensure that the Postal Regulatory Commission undertakes a secondary review of rate limits for stamps and other mail types. The USPS has proposed an aggressive rate increase approach in their recent 10-year plan based on the liabilities they face until Congress can act to alleviate them. The funding bill is likely to be resolved at the end of the year and our hope is that if Congress can pass postal reform before the end of the year, greatly reducing long term USPS liabilities, there will be a strong case to add the rate review requirement, as USPS revenue needs will be far less.

The industry is also facing a new challenge in the form of rapidly escalating costs for bringing products into the country. As the worldwide economy emerges from pandemic restrictions, the shipping industry faces unprecedented demand for capacity and containers for parts and products of all types. Some shippers are taking advantage of this to impose huge increases in fees and changing contract terms, despite rapidly deteriorating service. In response, Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 (H.R. 4996) at the end of August. Their bill would empower the Federal Maritime Commission to reign in the abusive practices of bad actors in the shipping industry. Again, this reflects a rare bipartisan approach to a real problem, and their bill is also a candidate for inclusion in the big year-end funding bill.

The GCA will focus on postal and international shipping issues as we work for a successful outcome from the fall congressional sessions. There are big challenges ahead but we have real possibilities for good outcomes. GCA is not alone, as large coalitions of stakeholders are engaging with us to get these bills over the finish line. We will continue to look for every opportunity to get these bills onto the President’s desk before the end of the year.

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