Reid says postal bill shows Senate can 'do big things'

The inability of the Senate to pass as many bills as the House is due in large part to the narrow majority Democrats hold over Republicans, and Senate rules that often require 60 votes to move legislation along. But House Republicans have complained for the last year that Democrats are also unwilling to consider significant federal spending cuts, a position that has prevented the Senate from passing a budget resolution for the last three years.

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But Tuesday saw some bipartisan agreement to move ahead with the postal reform bill, S. 1789, despite a Republican attempt to stop the bill by arguing that it would increase the budget deficit by $34 billion. Nine Republicans joined Democrats to thwart the GOP effort, which Reid said was a major breakthrough on the way toward passing a bill to save the U.S. Postal Service.

"We saw that yesterday when there was an effort made to bring the bill down," Reid said. "The first vote we took was to bring the bill down. And by a bipartisan basis, senators stood in the well of the Senate, from their desks in the chamber, and indicated how important this legislation was. It was a very important day for the American people."

The Senate held several amendment votes to the 21st Century Postal Service Act on Tuesday, and is expected to hold several additional roll call votes starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday before finishing the bill.

But the bill could face trouble in the House, as Republicans have argued the USPS should be permitted to continue with its plans to close hundreds of offices in a bid to stop billions of dollars in losses each year.

The Senate bill, in contrast, would delay additional closings for two years and let the USPS receive $11.4 billion in overpayments to its retirement system to help shore up its cash flow. The Senate bill also lets the USPS defer $23 billion in payments to its retiree health benefit plan, which Senate Republicans said would eventually require taxpayers to make this payment.

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