Schumer Vows to Bring Postal Reform Bill to Senate Floor Before Presidents’ Day
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday vowed to bring a postal service reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote before the Presidents’ Day recess.
The bill, which passed in the House with overwhelming bipartisan support on Wednesday is widely considered the most significant overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service in nearly two decades.
The House approved the measure 342 to 92. The companion bill in the Senate already has more than a dozen Republican co-sponsors, suggesting it already has enough support to sail through the chamber and go to the president’s desk for his signature.
On Monday the White House signaled Biden’s support for the legislation, releasing a statement that said, “the administration supports efforts to strengthen the United States Postal Service, including by providing postal employees with the dignity, fair pay and employer-provided benefits they have earned.”
The statement went on to say, “The administration is committed to ensuring that the Postal Service delivers the highest quality, most reliable service possible to every American.”
Both bills seek to address the agency’s long standing financial woes and delivery issues that came to a head during the coronavirus pandemic.
Without congressional action, the bill’s sponsors say, the agency, which came into existence in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general, and which formally became the U.S. Postal Service in 1971, could run out of money by 2024.
“The post office is quite simply one of the most important institutions of American life,” Schumer said. “Every day, tens of millions of Americans — veterans, small businesses, people living in rural communities, seniors — rely on the Postal Service for their medicines and prescriptions, for getting essential goods, for voting, for correspondence, for their livelihoods, and to get close to one another on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries and things like that.
“But nevertheless, our Postal Service has needed reform for over a decade,” he continued. “Its budgets are severely strained, its delivery services are overwhelmed, and the disruptions unleashed by the internet have made it harder for it to meet its obligations to the American people and to its own employees.
“Every one of us has heard objections about letters arriving far too late. In many instances, whether they be checks that people depend on for their livelihoods or prescription drugs or whatever, these complaints are growing and growing and growing,” Schumer said.
If passed, the bipartisan postal reform bill would guarantee delivery services continue six days a week, make deliveries more efficient and timely and will put the post office on a path towards stability with measures aimed at getting it out from under lingering debt while saving close to $50 billion.
On the expense side, the bill would end a requirement that the Postal Service finance, in advance, health care benefits for current and retired workers for the next 75 years.
That obligation, which private companies and federal agencies do not face, was imposed in 2006. That ended up being the year that the Postal Service’s mail volume peaked and its financial fortunes steadily worsened.
The Postal Service hasn’t made those payments since 2012. Overall it faces unpaid obligations of $63 billion, according to its most recent annual report. The bill forgives much of that debt.
Instead of those obligations, the Postal Service would pay current retirees’ actual health care costs that aren’t covered by Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older people.
The legislation would also require future Postal Service retirees to enroll in Medicare, which only about three in four do now. The shift would save the Postal Service money by having Medicare cover much of its cost.