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Better Late Than Never

Not all Senators hunkered down Wednesday in preparation for the debate over judicial filibusters. Freshman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), along with a band of his colleagues whose states got slammed by the Pentagon’s recently released base-closure list, mobilized to introduce a stand-alone bill to delay the round of closings.

[IMGCAP(1)]While running last year to unseat then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D), Thune made the argument that, as a member of the majority and the president’s party, he could provide an edge to keep open his state’s Ellsworth Air Force Base. But the base, which employs about 3,800 South Dakotans, is now on the chopping block.

Thune’s bill would postpone the Base Realignment and Closure Commission — which began hearings this week — until the Pentagon finishes a quadrennial review next year and until “substantially all” forces return from deployment in Iraq.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Maine’s Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, as well as South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson (D) and longtime BRAC opponent Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

Jamie Gallagher, a lobbyist and former BRAC official, said the commission is already “very far along.” But, he said, lawmakers “have to make the good fight, which is to try to stop the process altogether and fight the recommendations through the commission.”

Gallagher also said that communities and states with installations marked for closure by the BRAC list have been calling on consultants to help them save their bases.

Mail Call. The House Administration Committee announced Tuesday several changes to the chamber’s franked mail program.

The changes include a new “Single Drop Mass Mail Notification” form, designed to help Members secure the appropriate postal rate.

A committee aide said the form will also allow the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer to monitor franked mail expenses and assist Members from overspending.

In addition, the CAO will staff a new Mass Mail Customer Support Desk to assist Members and their staffs with questions about franked mailings. The desk is located in Room B-240 of the Longworth House Office Building and can be reached at (202) 226-3764.

House officials will also roll out a new mail-collection service for large mailings. Pick-ups can be arranged by contacting the House Postal Operations at the number above.

— Kate Ackley and Jennifer Yachnin

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