On Senate Floor, Portman Highlights Need for Senate to Pass Bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act

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 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. 

A transcript of the speech can be found below and a video can be found here.

“We’re also on the floor today talking about the postal reform legislation. I know we’re going back and forth trying to determine how many amendments will be offered and which amendments are germane or relevant to the legislation or not. But let me just say we already had a strong vote to move to this legislation. We had a vote of over 70 members, which is rare around here, a strong bipartisan vote saying let’s move forward with this postal reform, and it’s really important we do it because the Post Office is in deep trouble, and if we don’t act, it’s going to get a lot worse. We’re going to have big problems. 

“In looking at this issue again, in my oversight responsibilities on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, it looks like in the next few years the Post Office would probably go insolvent, and none of us wants that. By the way, when that happens, there will probably be a big government bailout. So this legislation, along with internal reforms that the Post Office is making themselves, and I commend them for that, is intended to avoid that problem. It’s intended to ensure that we can get this under control before there is an insolvency. Right now, the Postal Service is projecting a ten-year loss of $160 billion if we just continue with the status quo. 

“The reality is the Post Office is in a tough business situation. Think about it. How many first-class letters have you sent recently and how many did you send five years ago or ten years ago? Probably more. Increasingly, we are relying on sending things by email and not sending them by first-class mail. That changes the Postal Service’s business model. They’re also delivering to more and more addresses because everybody wants to be connected to the Post Office to receive packages, to receive other kinds of mail, advertising, newspapers, bills. People who are reliant on getting their prescriptions through the mail are very eager to see the Post Office be strong and, of course, be a Post Office that addresses their universal service requirement, in other words, goes to every single mailbox around America. So the math doesn’t work very well when you’ve got more and more addresses and not as much first-class mail to be sent out. 

“That’s one reason that the Post Office is in trouble, and we need to address that new reality. The current Postmaster General, by the way, his name is Louis DeJoy, came and talked to some of us yesterday about this and talked about an ambitious plan that he’s embarked on, along with the support of the Postal Board of Governors and the support of the previous administration and this administration, to ensure that we can transform the Post Office by finding efficiencies, including transforming existing capabilities to make sure they more efficiently meet the needs of the American people. He has a ten-year plan that makes changes to make the Post Office more efficient, but it also continues to have this universal service obligation where everybody’s going to be getting their mail. In fact, under our legislation, there’s also a six-day per week mail delivery requirement. So not just that everybody’s Post Office box or mailbox or door is being serviced by the Post Office, but that it’s done six days a week. But he needs help to do that. 

“In particular, he’s made it very clear to us that he needs the financial space to be able to put these reforms in place, to be able to take away some of the huge liabilities that they currently face at the Post Office. That’s what we do in this legislation. First, we eliminate a burdensome pre-funding requirement for retiree health benefits. This has really been a problem for the Post Office. It’s made their lives much more difficult. We mandated this in Congress back in 2006 for current employees. This has crippled the Post Office financially. You should know, by the way, pre-funding of health care retiree benefits is something the federal government does not do, so other agencies and departments don’t have to do that. It’s also not something the private sector does. So it’s something that the Post Office uniquely has had to deal with. And it, again, has been a financial burden for them that has really made their financial statements extremely difficult. 

“Second, we require Postal Service employees who are retiring, who have been paying into Medicare their entire career, by the way, to join up with Part B and Part D of Medicare, in other words, to go into Medicare and instead of having the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program be their plan, to have that be the backup and have Medicare be their primary payer. Everybody is in Part A, by the way, already Medicare Part A, but some Postal Service employees are not enrolled in Part B and Part D. Now, about 75 percent are enrolled in entire Medicare, but again, about 25 percent are not. So that saves money for the Post Office because Medicare is not as generous a program, frankly, as Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan or the new Postal Service Health Benefits Program.

“Third, we require the Postal Service to maintain its current standard of the six-day a week delivery we talked about through an integrated delivery system of mail and packages that simply says that the status quo ought to continue so that you are delivering packages and letters at the same time, not separately. That would be incredibly inefficient to say, okay, you’re going to have a separate system for packages and a separate system for letters. In addition to doing all these things, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill is going to save money. It’s going to save $1.5 billion a year to the American taxpayer. I’d also like to note what the bill does not do because there’s been some misinformation out there, including one editorial I saw recently, one it doesn’t appropriate any new funds to the United States Postal Service. Two, it does not change the accounting or cost structure for packages and letters, so it does not disadvantage private sector carriers. It’s the status quo, and that’s very important to me. Third, it does not impact the solvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. That’s the Part A trust fund that’s going broke in a short number of years, and that’s the big focus of a lot of us to ensure that doesn’t happen. It doesn’t affect the Part A trust fund at all. It also does not increase the Medicare Part B or Part D premiums. And that’s important, I think, to a lot of us. And finally, it does not allow the Postal Service to enter into new commercial services like postal banking, which I believe would be a big mistake. 

“The legislation received strong bipartisan support when it was taken up in the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago. It passed by a vote of 342 to 92. Not much gets passed in terms of major legislation along those lines. And I’m proud of the people who worked hard on this on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol to come up with a bipartisan bill. It’s not the bill any one of us would have written, but it’s the right bill to save the Post Office. I think Republicans and Democrats alike in the House looked at this and said, we got to do something here. We do not want the Post Office to go belly up. Some say that this is a whole lot better than the alternative. I agree with that. I think that’s one of the reasons we need to pass this. It does get the Postal Service back on track, again with the reforms being undertaken internally at the Post Office itself, that combination of what we’re doing here to provide them some financial space to be able to make the reforms and the reforms that they’re doing. 

“So I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting the legislation. Let’s put the Postal Service in a position to succeed, to continue to provide these essential services that small businesses that are veterans with regard to their health care prescriptions being delivered with her rural constituents absolutely needing the Post Office to be there to service them. They rely on this. And that’s why so many again and my colleagues on both sides of the House strongly support this legislation. I want to thank my colleague, Senator Peters, for working with us over time to find the consensus on this bill.

 “Let’s pass it and ensure that the Postal Service, the Post Office, remains viable for years and years ahead. Nothing is more important to my rural constituents who talked to me about this quite a bit than ensuring that the Post Office stays healthy. It’s really important to again, some of the veterans I represent who get their needed medication through the mail. It’s important to our voting system in this country because a lot of voting is by mail, including in Ohio, where for many years we’ve had absentee voting, that is no fault absentee. But we rely on the Post Office to ensure that our ballots get delivered on time. 

“So this is an opportunity for us on a bipartisan basis to ensure the Post Office remains strong and I hope we take advantage of it and pass this legislation and have appropriate amendments in the meantime and get this done in short order. I yield back my time.”