Federal Diary: Connolly seeks answers on long-term-care premiums, is skeptical about cuts in mail delivery

Connolly on long-term-care premiums:
Connolly on long-term-care premiums: "I think we need to get to the bottom of what happened here." (Gerald Martineau/the Washington Post)
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By Joe Davidson
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gerald Connolly is an amateur thespian and a professional politician.

Now in his first year of Congress, the Fairfax Democrat is on the biggest stage of his life -- the House of Representatives. He represents Virginia's 11th District and has enhanced his profile inside the chamber as president of the freshmen Democrats.

In his role as a member of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, Connolly has an opportunity to act on the often difficult issues facing the many federal workers and contractors who reside in his district.

On Wednesday, the Federal Diary asked Connolly about several hot topics important to his federal constituency. Below is an edited version of that conversation.

Long-term care for federal employees

You recently asked the subcommittee to hold hearings on the unexpected long-term-care insurance premium increases (of up to 25 percent) that federal employees have complained about. Will those hearings happen?

Connolly: I'm hopeful that they will happen. I think we need to get to the bottom of what happened here. There may be a reasonable [explanation], but absent a cogent explanation of what went wrong from OPM [Office of Personnel Management] and others, I fear that it looks like bait and switch. We're not just talking about a trivial increase. We can't just let that go by without explanation and without investigation as to what happened. The Office of Personnel Management has to be accountable to the federal employees.

Five-day mail delivery

The subcommittee also is dealing with a $7 billion U.S. Postal Service deficit. Postal officials say one of the things they must be able to do to get out of the deficit is go to five-day delivery from the current six-day operation. Is that something you could support?

Connolly: I'm a little skeptical about that. What often happens to large organizations that find themselves in a downward spiral financially is that they end up cutting service and raising prices. I think we need a new business model for the U.S. Postal Service. We're not going to get by by tinkering at the edges. For Congress to agree to [five-day delivery,] we'd have to be convinced that it is in the context of a very high probability of this new business model, whatever it is, being successful and this is part of it. The Postal Service is going to have to persuade members of Congress that this is essential.

Federal employees and outside contractors

The Obama administration and Congress are moving to cut the government's use of outside contractors, something that's strongly supported by federal employee unions. Your district has a lot of federal employees but it also has a lot of contractors. Are you caught in the middle on this?

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