WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation to rescue the United States Postal Service (USPS) from certain financial failure next year cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday by a vote of 9-1.
The 21st Century Postal Service Act, S.1789, would provide USPS with the flexibility it needs to restructure itself in an effort to save billions of dollars and return to financial viability.
The measure was introduced last week by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., and Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass.
Lieberman said: “The Postal Service is the second largest employer in the country after WalMart and its 32,000 post offices represent more domestic retail outlets than Wal-Mart, Starbucks and McDonalds combined. But its financial viability has been deteriorating for years, and the rapid changeover to electronic communications combined with the economic downturn have swept it up into a financial death spiral. We cannot stand by and allow the Postal Service to collapse.
“Our goal with this bipartisan legislation is simple: get the Postal Service back in the black and help it remain financially sound into the future. The Postal Service may have been established in the 18th century, but it is not a 21st century relic. It is a great, American asset. But times are changing rapidly, and so too must the Postal Service, if it is to survive. I am pleased the Committee came together in a bipartisan way to offer a reasonable solution to a very grave problem.”
Collins said: “The Postal Service is the linchpin of a $1.1 trillion mailing and mail-related industry that employs approximately 8.7 million Americans in fields as diverse as direct mail, printing, catalog companies, and paper manufacturing. It literally won't survive without legislative and administrative reforms. Absent action, it won't be able to meet its payroll a year from now.
“Today’s Committee action is great progress and a huge step forward giving the Postal Service the authority it needs to restructure, modernize, survive, and thrive. We are giving the Postal Service the tools to achieve solvency once again.”
Carper said: “I have been saying for some time now that Congress needs to come together on a plan that can save the Postal Service and protect the more than eight million jobs that rely on it. Today’s markup is another important step in our effort to reform the Postal Service and help it thrive in the 21st century. This bill – the only bipartisan proposal from Members in either Chamber – presents a comprehensive solution to the Postal Service’s financial challenges. I thank my colleagues on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for recognizing the urgency of this situation and approving this bipartisan solution to a challenging and complex set of problems. It is my hope that Congress and the Administration can come together on this plan in order to save the Postal Service before it’s too late.”
Brown said: "Today, I’m very pleased that the 21st Century Postal Bill has passed through our committee and is another step closer to passage. This represents a significant achievement where Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle worked together and offered the American people an important bipartisan solution that solves a significant problem."
The 21st Century Postal Service Act would:
- Authorize USPS to offer buyouts to employees to help reduce its workforce. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is directed to refund the Postal Service for what everyone agrees has been an overpayment to the Federal Employees Retirement System. Using this money to support buyouts, the Postmaster General estimates he can reduce the Postal Service workforce by as many as 100,000 employees over the next three years in order to reach savings of $8 billion a year.
- Allow the Postal Service to work with its employee unions and OPM to develop a new health plan to cover postal employees. The Postmaster General estimates that a new healthcare plan could cut costs roughly in half, while maintaining adequate benefits.
- Recalibrate the pre-funding requirements for its retiree health benefits by amortizing those payments over time.
- Bar the USPS from five-day-a-week mail delivery for two years and until it develops remedies for customers who may be affected disproportionately by the change in service. USPS also must reduce costs and increase revenues by other means before five-day delivery takes effect.
A number of amendments were added to the legislation.
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