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Fate of Post Office Overhaul Is Up for Debate

Young wrote NALC members, "for the Bush administration, it is always easier to pick on those who are less fortunate than others." He wrote, "The nation's injured letter carriers and other postal employees were an easy mark."

Collins was dismayed by Young's action, congressional aides said. The NALC had not brought up the issue in three years of negotiations on the bill and had promised to support an overhaul of postal operations, the aides said.

Collins and the White House had backed off another workers' compensation provision opposed by the union, and Collins had negotiated solutions to issues raised by large mailers and postal competitors, such as UPS.

One troublesome area -- how to regulate postage rates for certain types of mail under a cap linked to the consumer price index and also provide an escape clause for exceptional circumstances -- was resolved to the satisfaction of big mailers and unions, lobbyists said.

"We were within a quarter-inch of getting it done Friday night," Davis said at a breakfast forum sponsored by the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government and The Washington Post.

But some administration officials and some lobbyists think the postal overhaul could be dead, not only for this year but for two or three years, if control of Congress shifts in next month's congressional elections. They also doubt that Collins and the White House will give in to the NALC.

Still, one administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he participated in the discussions, noted that the bill has survived delays and attempts to kill it. "This has more lives than nine dead cats," he said.

Stephen Barr's e-mail address

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