After passing major postal reform legislation last week, the US Senate is now pushing for the House of Representatives to pass its version of a bill to rescue the US Postal Service.
The 21st Century Postal Service Act (S.1789), passed by the Senate on Wednesday, proposes to restructure USPS pension and healthcare payment arrangements to lower its operating costs, freeing up funds to provide incentives for 100,000 workers to leave USPS.
But, the bill also adds various restrictions and extra red tape on the Postal Service in downsizing its processing network in response to lower mail volumes, and offers a two-year moratorium on eliminating Saturday deliveries.
The House proposal, currently awaiting a floor debate, contains stronger cost-cutting proposals for USPS, but led by Republicans Darrell Issa and Dennis Ross, it does not provide as much pension and healthcare system restructuring that USPS needs, in order to protect the federal budget.
It also proposes a controlling Commission to take charge of USPS cutbacks, which would include legislative moves to cancel union deals on job protections.
If the House does pass its bill, it would move along with S.1789 to a committee to produce a compromise proposal that might pass both chambers of Congress.
The Senators driving S.1789 wrote to House leaders yesterday urging them to promptly consider the troubles of the Postal Service, which is currently projected to see its annual losses grow from around $14bn to more than $20bn by 2016.
“The Postal Service’s financial crisis will likely come to a head in the next few months. Without legislation, the Postal Service will not be able to make payments that are due and will likely be forced to slash services,” wrote Senators Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins and Tom Carper.
“We fear that the resulting degradation of mail service will further drive away postal customers, only hastening the loss of postal revenue, the accelerating contraction of mail processing and mail-related industry, and further loss of associated jobs.”
Tom Carper, the Democrat from the State of Delaware, published a page on his website today urging the House to pass its Issa-Ross bill within the next two weeks, so that it is passed prior to the end of the current USPS moratorium on closing mail plants and post offices, which ends on 15 May.
“My friends in the House must move forward with consideration of postal reform legislation right away, or else we’ll begin to see the dire consequences of postal facilities shutting down across the country,” said Sen. Carper.
“Failing to act would hasten the Postal Service’s financial decline, which would threaten a mailing industry that employs over 8 million people and generates almost $1 trillion in economic activity each year. We can’t let that happen. If Congress works together to finalize comprehensive postal reform legislation, we can ensure that this invaluable American institution, enshrined in the Constitution, will survive and thrive in a new century. But the clock is ticking.”
As part of last week’s Senate debate, the upper chamber of Congress passed a resolution calling on USPS to delay its planned facility closures until Congress has passed its postal reform proposals.
However, the resolution was non-binding, and does require USPS to comply.
The Senators leading postal reform wrote to US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe today asking him to respect the resolution and refrain from shutting postal facilities until Congress has completed its postal reforms.
“You have announced your intent to close hundreds of post offices and processing facilities beginning May 15th. However, as last weeks’s debate demonstrated, there is considerable concern in the Senate that this approach will unnecessarily degrade the infrastructure which is one of the Postal Service’s most important assets,” the Senators wrote.
“We believe an attempt to proceed with the planned closures – to “get in under the wire” while legislation to the contrary is being considered – would be counterproductive and would violate the clear intent of the Senate.
“We therefore urge you to extend the current moratorium to delay the closure or consolidation of post offices and mail processing facilities that would be kept open were S. 1789 to be enacted into law, while we work together with our House colleagues to enact comprehensive postal legislation as quickly as possible,” the Senators urged Donahoe.
Source: Post&Parcel/US Senate