Obama

Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.

Heaven knows the USPS needs an overhaul: It's losing customers and billions of dollars per year, in part because electronic communication has rendered its traditional business model—first-class mail—obsolete.

It was in that depressing context that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House committee that oversees the Postal Service, heard testimony this month on the Obama administration's ideas for reform.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is no stranger to bad news-and if the first three months of the new year are any indication, the struggling organization won't see much respite any time soon.

President Obama renewed his longstanding call to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service in his fiscal 2015 budget, saying the agency must be reformed to ensure its future viability.

Obama recommended restructuring the Postal Service's requirement to prefund the health care of retirees. His plan would defer the fixed payments due in 2014, and part of the payments due in the two years after that. 

Obama also would allow the Postal Service to eliminate Saturday mail delivery immediately, whereas the Senate bill would delay the switch to five-day delivery until 2017.

As the Obama administration pushes to do more business over the Internet, finally seeking to close the technology gap with the private sector, the digital makeover is running into a dogged opponent called Consumers for Paper Options.

The group is working the halls of Congress in closed-door meetings, underwriting research favorable to its position and slow the move away from printed checks, forms and other paper communication.

"The glitzy new thing is to be pro-technology," said John Runyan, Consumers for Paper Options' executive director.

Last month, Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced a bill that would combine the U.S. Commerce and Labor departments and eliminate the Small Business Administration as a stand-alone agency. Under other circumstances, a proposal to pare government by a Republican lawmaker might seem like political grandstanding, at least while a Democrat sits in the White House. But Burr's proposal has been getting good circulation in small business advocacy circles, perhaps because it bears similarities to a plan floated by President Obama in 2012 to combine overlapping agencies. Here's what to know about the bill.

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