Postal Service to issue wage garnishment rule, despite controversy

The U.S. Postal Service will issue a rule Thursday that allows the federal government to garnish the wages of private-sector workers who owe the USPS money.

The wage garnishment regulation, which mirrors similar rules on the books of about 30 other federal agencies, allows the USPS to take money out of the paychecks of non-government workers to compensate for debts they owe the agency.

It may seem insignificant — considering it breezed through the public comment process without receiving a single comment — except for the fact that Republicans criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for doing the same exact thing just last month.

Three Republican senators wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing their frustrations with the rule, prompting the EPA to eventually back off a version of the rule.

In fact, the criticism was so bad, the EPA decided to withdraw the rule and start over.

The EPA would use wage garnishment to collect money from people who owe the agency money, such as those who have not paid fines for breaking environmental laws, defaulted on environmental loans from the agency, former employees who were accidentally overpaid before leaving the agency, and people who have filed FOIA requests without paying the fees.

But on Thursday a similar rule from the USPS will go into effect, having largely flown under the radar. The same is true of many other federal agencies with wage garnishment rules.

Some Democrats have speculated this is because Republicans have a clear bias against the EPA but show less angst when it comes to other agencies, such as the Postal Service.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said as much at a recent hearing, pointing out that the EPA is far from the only federal agency with wage garnishment rules. He said more than a dozen people owe the EPA $228,000.

"It's another one of those talking points memos," Moran said. "When you get down to what the guts of what this does, it's a little silly." 

The USPS rule goes into effect immediately. Meanwhile, the EPA has re-opened the comment period on its wage garnishment rule.