WASHINGTON, DC – Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered remarks ahead of the cloture vote urging his Senate colleagues to pass the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act. The legislation will set the United States Postal Service on a more sustainable financial footing and support the goal of providing long-term reliable service across the country. The bill strengthens transparency and accountability for Postal Service performance, eliminates unnecessary financial burdens, and helps ensure the Postal Service can better serve the American people. After Portman delivered his remarks, cloture was invoked with a bipartisan vote of 74 to 17.
A transcript of the speech can be found below and a video can be found here.
“I’m here on the floor today to talk about Postal Service reform. We have another vote this afternoon, and this is incredibly important to the people I represent, and all of us represent. It’s important because the Postal Service is something people depend on for so much. This legislation that we’re talking about has been in the works for years. It’s a bill to try to save the Post Office from insolvency. And if we don’t act on this, I believe in the next few years, we’ll be back here with a big bailout for the Postal Service because they’re having a tough time financially. The combination of this legislation that we will pass and some internal reforms that the Post Office is making should be enough to get the Post Office back on track.
“The Postal Service has a Postmaster General right now who is absolutely committed to that, making the Post Office more effective, more efficient. But he needs a little breathing room, as he says, and that’s what we’re doing here in Congress. It doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything. And by the way, if we don’t do this, in a few years it would cost the taxpayers a lot in terms of a bailout that I’m afraid would happen. And the Post Office, again, is so important, it’s definitely worth saving. Our country is pretty divided right now, let’s be honest. But one enduring reality about our country is that we have a Post Office that ties us all together, and everybody depends on that Post Office. By the way, it’s been that way for a long time.
“In 1775, three months after the battles of Lexington and Concord – so this is 1775 before the revolution was finalized in 1776 – during that time, the delegates to the Second Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as the Postmaster General. And why was this so important? Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers, and this was considered to be a really crucial post because the new Postal Service offered a way for the colonists to talk to each other, to communicate, for revolutionary leaders to be able to strategize with each other outside of the official British channels. So the Post Office has that rich history, and it continues to bind us today.
“In Ohio, it ensures that veterans get their medications, that they get through the mail. And believe me, that’s important to them to get it on time. It allows absentee voters. In Ohio, we have no-fault absentee. We’ve had it for years. It works well, but it requires the Post Office to do its job and obviously to not just deliver the absentee forms, but to get the ballots in on time. It also is crucial for people to be able to get their rent check in or to be sure that they get their utility bill in time. It’s for people’s financial statements from their banks, but also the Post Office still delivers birthday cards, thank you notes, personal letters that strengthen the bonds of family and friendship.
“So our Postal Service binds us together at a time when we’re increasingly polarized. Let’s talk about what this particular legislation does. How does it save the Post Office? First, very simply, the bill makes sure the Post Office is going to be on a strong footing for the future by relieving the post service of an obligation that virtually nobody else has, nobody else in the federal government, which is to pre-fund retiree health benefits. Now, if you’re in a private company and you’re listening to this, I’m almost sure you don’t pre-fund your retirement health care benefits. People don’t do that. In the federal government, we don’t do that. We don’t do it here in Congress. And yet the Post Office has that obligation. This would allow the Post Office, by getting out from under that obligation, to reconcile its books more accurately and to focus on immediate obligations. They should focus on those immediate obligations, but not the pre-funding.
“Second, this bill requires postal employees who retire in the future to enroll in Medicare Part B and Part D. So hospitalization Part A people are already signed up for that. Everybody is. But for Part B and Part D, doctors visits prescription drugs, about 25 percent of the people who work for the Post Office are not signed up for that. And by putting that 25 percent into there, it helps to save a lot of money for the Post Office and the taxpayers. Taxpayers will save about $1.5 billion based on this legislation. And a lot of it is because of that change. The Employee Health Benefit Plan that they would otherwise be in is a more generous plan, and that’s how you get those savings.
“Third, the bill requires the Post Office to maintain its current standard of six-day delivery. That’s important to a lot of my constituents, particularly in the rural area. They like getting their mail and to do it through an integrated delivery system of mail and packages together. That, of course, makes sense. You don’t want separate systems going out for packages and for mail. That’s what they do now. So this is really just restating the status quo. And that’s very important. For some of the private sector companies that provide delivery services, they want to know that this is just the status quo. We’re not talking about any changes.
“Both sides of the aisle have talked to me about the six-day delivery. I know that wherever people have a rural area in their state, this is particularly important. It ensures that people are going to receive their medications or checks or correspondence on a timely and predictable basis. So this bill shores up the Post Office and it does it in a way that actually saves money. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates, as I said, this legislation will save taxpayers $1.5 billion. So it doesn’t cost taxpayers anything.
“It’s not an appropriation of more money, but over ten years it saves that money. CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, which is a nonpartisan body up here that looks at the economic impact of legislation. CBO has told us recently that this bill will not affect the solvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. That’s the trust fund we talk about a lot here, that we’re concerned that it’s going to become insolvent in only a short number of years and that’s going to cause problems for Medicare. That trust fund is not touched by this legislation. CBO has also made it clear that the bill will not increase Part B or Part D premiums. Again, Part B doctors visits, Part D prescription drugs.
“That’s very important because a lot of people had concerns about that. And one reason it doesn’t affect it, by the way, is there’s only a small number of postal employees, only 25 percent of them who would become part of that. So it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people in Medicare. There are probably 60 some million people, maybe 61, 62 million people on Medicare. This is between 14,000 and maybe 80,000 people who would be added to Part B. So it does not affect the premiums. And by the way, these people have been paying into Medicare their whole career, so it’s appropriate that they go into Part B and Part D.
“So this is a good bill and I think it’s why it passed the House with such a strong vote. It passed with a bipartisan vote in the House of 342 to 92. That rarely happens, particularly in the House of Representatives. So that’s an indication of what kind of legislation this is. It’s popular because it’s about saving the Post Office and it’s popular because it does so without asking the taxpayers to step up and do more. In fact, save some money. And it’s popular because we’ve worked together on this one. We’ve each side made concessions.
“Is it the perfect bill that I would have written? No. Same with my colleague from Michigan who’s just arrived on the Democratic side. He would have written it differently in a number of respects. I know that because he had to make concessions. We had to make concessions, but we ended up with legislation that does the job and that’s what’s important to put the Post Office in a position to succeed in its critical mission, to provide essential services to small businesses, to our veterans, to our seniors, to our rural constituents.
“Let’s pass this bill and let’s ensure that the Post Office is healthy for all those folks we represent back home. I yield back my time.”