Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) engineered the coup, surprising Democrats by urging his GOP colleagues to oppose a motion to turn to the bipartisan 21st Century Postal Service Act. McConnell said he wanted the Senate to continue debate on the oil tax bill, which he, and most Republicans oppose.
"Republicans are happy to use this opportunity to talk about some of those things," said McConnell, speaking from the floor. “[W]e’re now hearing that the Democrats want to move off this tax hike legislation… we’re certainly not going to make a difference if we keep flitting from one issue to another."
Despite the postal reform bill’s failure on Tuesday, it is likely the Senate will take it up after the break which is set to begin on Thursday or Friday.
The legislation, written by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) would reduce operating costs for the Postal Service by about $8 billion by directing the postmaster general to reduce the workforce and cause reductions in infrastructure to properly reflect the decreased demand that has resulted from the rapid expansion of communication technology. The plan would also seek to raise revenue by allowing the Post Office to ship products currently banned, like wine and beer.
Collins and other East Coast senators including Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argued from the floor during the last several weeks that the pending bill would also derail Postmaster General Patrick Donahue's reform plan, which they said would result in the abrupt closure of 200 postal plants at the cost of up to 32,000 jobs.
"His proposal for the Post Office, would become an unmitigated disaster for out country and especially, for rural America," said Sanders, speaking from the Senate floor just before the vote.