Senate kills GOP effort to derail postal reform bill

"It's really a grievous problem, not one that can be avoided lightly," Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said just before the Tuesday vote. "Just last August, we agreed to certain debt limits. And we, I believe, have a moral obligation to not mislead the people who elected us when we said we intend to stay by the limits on increasing debt."

On Monday, Sessions argued the bill would require the Treasury to repay $11.4 billion in money that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) overpaid to its employee retirement system, and would let the USPS defer $23 billion in payments to its retiree health benefit plan. In each case, Sessions said those funds would have to be offset by new government debt, but should instead by offset by spending cuts.

Rep. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the sponsors of the bill, repeated her arguments from Monday that the Congressional Budget Office analysis saying the bill costs $34 billion is "misleading." She said that the funds involved come from the USPS, and that returning them would not amount to any new burden on taxpayers.

"There are no taxpayer dollars authorized by this bill or appropriated by this bill," Collins said.

After brief debate, the Senate voted 62-37 in favor of waiving the point of order, just narrowly meeting the 60-vote threshold. Nine Republicans voted with Democrats to waive the point of order: Roy Blunt (Mo.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Hoeven (N.D.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Pat Roberts (Kansas) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

With the point of order laid aside, the Senate was expected to immediately consider up to 39 amendments to the postal bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would take up to 10 minutes per vote, but also encouraged some to be held by voice vote to speed up the process.

— This story was updated at 4:18 p.m. to add vote results.