Senate Dems, GOP differ on saving USPS

Senate Democrats are seeking to amend a U.S. Postal Service reform bill to minimize potentially closing mail offices, while Senate Republicans want to tack on amendments that would curtail collective bargaining rights for union mail service employees and reduce costs.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a compromise over which amendments the chamber would consider attaching to S.1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act. The agreement, to vote on 39 amendments from both Republicans and Democrats, came after Reid used a procedural move to stop Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) from adding an amendment that would have cut off American aid to Egypt. Reid said the amendment was too broad.

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The 39 amendments that the Senate will vote on Tuesday are all related in some way to Postal Service reform. For the most part, Democrats are submitting amendments that would make it harder to close post offices in order to save the mail service, while Republicans are proposing a range of amendments aimed at cutting mail service costs and curtailing rights for unionized employees.

For example, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is proposing an amendment that would "prohibit the closing of a rural post office unless certain conditions are met and to establish a moratorium on the closing of rural post offices." Similarly, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is offering an amendment that keeps "the Postal Service from closing, consolidating, or reducing the workforce of certain postal facilities." Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the top messaging Democrat in the chamber, has an amendment meant to "maintain all current door delivery point services."

Meanwhile, Paul is offering a number of amendments to curtail union bargaining rights for mail service employees. For example, one amendment prohibits employees "from engaging in collective bargaining." Paul is also proposing an amendment that closes "post offices in the Capitol Complex." Another, also sponsored by Paul, makes the mail service "take into consideration the impact of regulations when developing a profitability plan."

Sen. Jim DeMint is also offering an amendment that protects "postal workers with respect to their right not to subsidize union nonrepresentational activities." Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) amendment would let the service "close unprofitable office facilities."

Both Senate Republicans and their Democratic counterparts spent the last week or so debating the postal bill. Both sides argued strongly in support of reforming the service so that it could avoid going broke, but the amendments to which the chamber agreed suggest two different approaches to how the service should be saved.