WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Both the House and Senate passed
 historic postal reform legislation in the final hours of the 109th Congress
 after key negotiators  Sens. Susan Collins, R-ME, and Tom Carper, D-DE,
 and Reps. Tom Davis, R-VA, and Henry A. Waxman, D-CA  brokered an
 agreement that will modernize the United States Postal Service and make it
 viable for the 21st century. The legislation, the first major overhaul of
 the USPS since 1970, will help stabilize mail volume and stamp prices.
 "The U.S. Postal Service is the lynchpin of a $900 billion mailing
 industry, providing nine million jobs nationwide in fields as diverse as
 direct mailing, printing, catalog companies, paper manufacturing, and
 financial services. But under its current business model, which has not
 been updated in decades, the financial future of the Postal Service is not
 viable," said Senator Collins. "The only way to avoid what the Government
 Accountability Office refers to as a 'death spiral'  of excessive and
 unpredictable rate increases which lead to further reductions in mail
 volume  is through the comprehensive reform that we accomplished here
 "This legislation will help us avoid disastrous future postal rate
 hikes and put the Postal Service on firm financial footing for the 21st
 century," said Senator Carper. "The bill would give the Postal Service the
 tools it needs to survive at a time when more and more people communicate
 and do business through faxes, email and electronic bill-pay rather than
 hard-copy mail. My thanks to Senator Collins and Congressmen Davis and
 Waxman for coming together to craft this compromise. The legislation will
 go a long way toward making sure the Postal Service has the flexibility it
 needs to compete in the new economy."
 This is the culmination of more than a decade of hard work and study,
 not to mention a great deal of bipartisan negotiation and cooperation,"
 Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis said. "The landmark
 legislation solves the structural, legal, and financial constraints that
 have brought the Postal Service to the brink of utter breakdown. This
 compromise will reverse the 'death spiral' at the Postal Service and bring
 it into the 21st century. It's a huge win for everyone who uses stamps."
 "My colleagues and I have been working for nearly a decade to reach a
 bipartisan, bicameral compromise on postal reform legislation," said Rep.
 Waxman. "This is a historic accomplishment and will help one of the most
 revered institutions in America survive and prosper in the electronic age."
 The Postal Service is in a period of transition. When it was created in
 1971, nobody had access to fax machines, cell phones, pagers and email.
 After nearly three decades of success, these new communications
 technologies have caught up with the agency. In recent years, the volume of
 First Class mail has steadily decreased. At the same time, more than 1
 million new addresses are added to delivery routes each year. The result:
 Delivery costs have increased at the same time that revenues are being
 The legislation would force the Postal Service to concentrate on what
 it does best  processing and delivering mail to all Americans. The bill,
 entitled the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, would dramatically
 rethink the way the Postal Service prices its products by giving it the
 same ability any other business has to change prices whenever it needs to
 do so. But to protect businesses and mailers from sudden and dramatic price
 hikes, the legislation would ensure that price increases be kept below an
 inflation- based ceiling.
 In addition, the bill would give the Postal Service the freedom to
 introduce new, innovative products or tailor existing products to meet
 customers' needs, which should help attract new business and increase
 revenues. The bill would also shore up the Postal Service's finances by
 repealing a provision in current law that makes the Postal Service the only
 agency in the federal government responsible for its employees' military
 pension benefits, returning this obligation to the U.S. Treasury. Another
 provision will permanently correct the Postal Service's flawed pension
 formula, a formula that was leading to significant overpayments and
 contributing to higher rates. These provisions will free up billions of
 dollars, giving the Postal Service the ability to begin paying down its
 Lawmakers also were able to strike a deal on the level of authority
 given to the newly-created Postal Regulatory Commission. The bill maintains
 language included in both the House and Senate versions giving the
 Commission tools, such as subpoena power, to ensure that the Postal Service
 is in compliance with the law and that the interests of the mailing public
 are protected. It now contains new language giving the Commission the
 power, as an expert regulatory body, to monitor the new rate system in
 future years and make whatever changes are necessary to ensure that it
 continues to meet postal customers' needs. At the same time, the bill would
 add an Inspector General of the Postal Regulatory Commission to monitor the
 regulator in the use of its expanded powers.