By Bernie Becker - 09/04/14 12:25 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Trail 2016: Her big night Reid: Trump 'may have' broken the law with Russia remarks Senator slams Reid for 'dangerous game' on Trump briefings MORE (D-Nev.) has joined an effort to block the U.S. Postal Service from closing dozens of processing centers, increasing the odds of a congressional debate over postal operations this month.
Government funding expires at the end of the month, and agreeing to keep the government running will be atop the to-do list for both the House and the Senate when lawmakers return to Washington next week.
Reid’s backing of the efforts to stop the shuttering of mail processing facilities adds another wrinkle to those negotiations.
The expiration of the Export-Import Bank and potential administrative action from President Obama on immigration could also complicate government funding negotiations, weeks before lawmakers face voters in November.
The Postal Service said this summer that it would start consolidating as many as 82 processing facilities at the beginning of 2015, on top of the 141 the agency has already shut down in recent years.
Postal officials argue that the consolidations will help them save hundreds of millions of dollars a year and streamline USPS operations.
The agency lost $2 billion in its most recent quarter, despite a jump in revenue. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has repeatedly urged Congress to come together on a broader restructuring of postal operations, but leading proposals in both chambers have stalled.
Lawmakers such as Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWill Sanders delegates stage a protest? 'Bernie or bust' backers vow to hold Clinton accountable Wasserman Schultz: 'Sometimes you just have to take one for the team' MORE (I-Vt.), Jon TesterJon TesterSenate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Bayh jumps into Indiana Senate race Six senators call on housing regulator to let Congress finish housing finance reform MORE (D-Mont.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Healthcare: Major insurer expands ObamaCare presence | Charges dropped for Planned Parenthood videomakers FDA explores changes to blood donation for gay men Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (D-Wis.) say the increased revenue illustrate that the USPS shouldn’t be cutting facilities so aggressively.
The three senators spearheaded the August letter seeking to attach a moratorium to a spending bill, an effort joined by Democrats mostly and a handful of prominent Republicans.
“This wave of closures will directly impact 37 states across our nation, and more importantly, the citizens who count on the Postal Service to be reliable,” the senators wrote.
But both the Postal Service and Sen. Tom CarperTom CarperCentrist Dems wary of public option push Retailers are shirking consumer data security responsibilities GMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections MORE (Del.), one of the leading Democrats working on a broader postal reform measure, have made clear that they’ll fight against an effort to tie government funding to the moratorium.
Dave Partenheimer, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said last month that the agency was “disappointed by the recent effort to block our ongoing initiative to remove excess capacity from our mail processing network.”
“It would be unfortunate if this action were to impede our current progress,” Partenheimer added.
In a statement of his own, Carper, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, warned his colleagues against measures like the moratorium and urged them to work with him on a larger overhaul.
Carper crafted a postal reform bill with Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.) that passed his committee but has since stalled.
“This latest round of closures isn’t the first time the U.S. Postal Service has had to implement potentially damaging cost-cutting measures on its own in order to reduce costs,” Carper said last month. “In the absence of comprehensive postal reform, it probably won’t be the last.”
“If my colleagues want to address these concerns for the long-haul, I urge them to join me this September as we continue our efforts to fix the serious, but solvable, financial challenges facing the Postal Service,” the Delaware Democrat added.