Domestic Taxes

Senators lobby both sides of postal moratorium

But at the same time, a trio of GOP senators is arguing that the agency should move forward on its cost-cutting agenda. The Postal Service has said that, as part of its consolidation efforts, it is looking at thousands of local post offices and more than 200 processing centers.

{mosads}The three senators – Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John McCain (Ariz.) – have largely panned their own chamber’s bill, and expressed sympathy with a House GOP bill that would allow USPS to move more quickly on cost-cutting initiatives. 

“We believe it is very unlikely that both the House and Senate will come to agreement on legislation that reforms the postal system anytime soon and strongly encourage you to move forward with the cost-saving changes you have previously outlined,” the senators wrote

The senators’ efforts come as some lawmakers are also pressing the House to quickly pass its own postal legislation, so that a compromise between the starkly different bills could potentially be hashed out before the May 15 deadline.

The four sponsors of the Senate bill – Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) – have also called on Donahoe to extend the moratorium, and Carper has even installed a countdown clock to May 15 on his website. 

But with the House yet to schedule a vote on its postal bill, key backers of that measure have indicated that the expiration of the moratorium will not force them to rush the legislation to the floor. 

And while Donahoe has said that his agency will move forward with care on any facility closures, he has given no public indication that USPS intends to extend the moratorium. 

The Postal Service put the moratorium into place itself, after lawmakers asked for some breathing room to craft legislation. Donahoe has also said that the service is looking at shortening the hours for many local branches instead of closing them. 

“As we inform our customers and employees of our plans, we will give them plenty of time to prepare,” Donahoe said Friday at a postal board of governors meeting. “We will be methodical and measured on how we proceed.” 

In the House, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), the chairman of the Oversight Committee and sponsor of the GOP legislation, said the May 15 deadline “never had a meaningful purpose in advancing efforts to help the Postal Service.”

“The committee is working with members to pass legislation that, unlike the Senate bill, gives the Postal Service a pathway to long-term solvency, preserves universal service, and does not kick the can down the road at taxpayer expense,” the spokesman, Ali Ahmad, said in statement.

Issa said in a statement of his own that the senators’ request to extend the moratorium was “inappropriate” and “would inject parochial politics into the postmaster general’s decision-making.”

USPS is currently losing roughly $25 million a day and has incurred billions of dollars in losses in recent years, a trend that is chalked up to both increases in digital communication and the recent recession. 

The Senate bill would ease the sting of a required prepayment for retiree healthcare, use a pension fund overpayment to incentivize workers into retirement and give USPS new avenues to raise revenues. 

But the measure would also prevent the agency from moving as quickly as it would like on scrapping six-day delivery and possibly on closing facilities, proposals that have drawn the ire of some House Republicans and Corker, Coburn and McCain. 

The House GOP bill would allow the agency to move more quickly on cost-cutting issues, but some rural Republicans in the chamber have also expressed concerns about the need to preserve access to post offices for their constituents. 

House Oversight officials say they are working with their members on those issues.

Some House Democrats have said they don’t believe the GOP bill could pass the chamber in its current form, and a bipartisan pair of lawmakers is now lobbying for a House vote on the Senate bill.

A spokesman for Rep. Peter Welch said the Vermont Democrat and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) would be circulating a letter asking for support of the Senate bill, and would concentrate on House Republicans who hail from states that had supportive GOP senators. 

The Senate bill is “far from perfect,” Grimm and Welch wrote, but “has bipartisan support and will strengthen the USPS for generations to come.”

Tags Bob Corker John McCain Peter Welch Susan Collins Tom Carper Tom Coburn

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