In the 14 years I’ve spent researching, writing about and advocating for the direct marketing industry, I’ve done my share of editorializing on the woes of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the need for reform. And after witnessing several versions of a reform bill bite the dust in one congressional session after another, I certainly qualified as being jaded. That was my state of mind last fall, when it looked as if another sun would set on the battle started by Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) in the mid-1990s.
Oh me of little faith. Behind the scenes, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE)—assisted greatly by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), industry associations, USPS execs and labor associations—had this bill chugging right along until the usual last-minute horse trading. With the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the USPS finally is in a better position to balance the goals of universal mail delivery with reasonable postal rates for all mailers.
But out of some long-awaited good comes a result few would have foreseen. Looking at the frenzied consensus-building that led up to the passage of this bill, President Bush decided that a little ole signing statement would be the perfect companion to this popular legislation. This signing statement claims the government’s ability to search sealed mail—which it always has had the right to do, but only when a judge warrants it or the USPS thinks the mail contains something dangerous. Now the prez clearly wants to circumvent this check to his power by emphasizing that the government will pry open sealed mail under “exigent circumstances”—which is just a fancy way of saying “whenever I dang want to.” What a perfect way to punish Congress and the other parties to this mission for not acting on nearly any of the recommendations made in 2003 by the President’s Commission on Postal Reform, no?