On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Senate Passage of Bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier 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

“I rise today in support of the legislation that my colleague from Michigan just talked about. This is HR 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act. What it really is, though, it’s ensuring that the Post Office works, that it works for the constituents that I represent, that and people all around the country. Unfortunately, right now the Post Office is in trouble and it’s in dire need of reform. And if we don’t do it, we’re going to have big problems. 

“Post Office just had its 15th consecutive annual net loss in 2021, and they projected they’re going to be insolvent in the next few years unless we make these reforms and other reforms as well that can be made by the Post Office itself. In fact, they project a ten-year loss of $160 billion if we just continue with the status quo. The reality is that the Postal Service is delivering less and less first-class mail. We’re all online. We’re not sending as many letters as we used to, and yet there are more and more addresses that they deliver to because more and more people want to get the mail they do deliver: the packages, the direct mail, and so on. So it doesn’t work. It’s a recipe for ruin if we don’t adjust to the new reality and make some necessary changes. 

“Last year, Senator Peters and I did introduce the legislation he talked about. We had 26 co-sponsors equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. We kept this bipartisan from the start. In fact, I would even say we tried to keep it nonpartisan. What could be more nonpartisan than trying to save the Post Office? Everybody cares about the Post Office and wants to be sure it’s working well and working efficiently. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s of importance to all Americans. Young, old, urban, rural, everybody. 

“I hear a lot about it back home from my constituents. A constituent from Butler County, Ohio, wrote me recently and said, ‘My father, a veteran of the Vietnam War, has COPD and is 70 years old. He receives his life-saving medication through the mail. My father can’t breathe without his daily inhaler.’ We got to be sure the Post Office works for him. 

“A constituent from Montgomery County wrote, ‘As a disabled veteran, I need to vote by mail.’ We have the ability to vote by mail in Ohio. It’s no-fault absentee, but it requires the Post Office to work right. It doesn’t work well if the ballot is late and is not counted. 

“A constituent from Richmond County, Ohio wrote, ‘The Post Office is essential to millions of Americans, including seniors and veterans who depend on it for medications, small business owners who are already struggling. Everybody. Everybody.’ Putting the Postal Service on sound financial footing cannot be accomplished through an act of Congress alone. 

“So this is not just about passing a law here. We’re going to do that. We had a good vote last night, and I think we’ll get more people supporting it, I hope, as we go through the week. But it’s also about reforms that the Post Office is going to make itself. And the current Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, has embarked on an ambitious plan to transform the Post Office by finding efficiencies, including transforming existing capabilities to more efficiently meet the needs of the American people. So he’s taking on a ten-year plan to make certain changes to make the Post Office more efficient. But he’s made clear to us he needs the financial space to do that. He needs some headroom here by us making some important changes here in Congress that we have a role to play, too, and this is what we do. 

“First, we eliminate a burdensome and unique pre-funding requirement for retiree health benefits. Congress mandated this back in 2006 for current employees, regardless of age. That has crippled the Post Office financially. Pre-funding of retiree health benefits is not something that anybody else has to do. It’s really uniquely the Post Office, the federal government does not do that. The private sector does not do that. In fact, very few private sector entities, of course, offer retiree health benefits. They rely on Medicare. So the federal government doesn’t do it. The private sector doesn’t do it. Why is the Post Office doing it? That’s a good question. We’re just trying to bring the Post Office into line with what everybody else is doing with regard to retiree health benefits. 

“Second, it requires Post Office employees who are retiring, who have been paying into Medicare their entire career, by the way, to actually enroll in Medicare Part B and Part D. Everybody’s in Part A, but about 25 percent of the postal employees are not in Part B. Instead, they rely on the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, which is far more expensive. This includes the ability for these Post Office retirees to get into Medicare Advantage. That’s very important to me. So just like what happens under current opportunities to enroll in Medicare Advantage, under the Federal Health Employees Benefit program, they would be able to use the Medicare Advantage program, which I like. It’s kind of a wrap-around program. It gives you more opportunities for more options and benefits. It’s more like a private-sector plan, and a lot of my constituents in Ohio like it and use it. Currently, again, about 25 percent of postal employees don’t enroll in Medicare, even though they’re eligible for it. And again, they paid their payroll tax, the HI tax you see on your paycheck. This means the Postal Service is currently paying higher premiums, again, for FEHB, than other public or private sector employees, employers who require Medicare. So this is a big savings for them. 

“Third, it requires the Postal Service to maintain its current standard of a six-day a week delivery through an integrated delivery network of mail and packages. This is important to a lot of my colleagues, particularly those representing rural areas, that you keep this six-day a week delivery. It’s important to the guy who is from Butler County who gets his COPD medication through the mail. So it requires the Post Office to continue to do that even while finding other efficiencies. In terms of the integrated delivery network of mail and packages together, it underscores through a rule of construction that this has no impact on existing rules governing how the Postal Service attributes costs between packages and mail. Let me repeat that. We provide for an integrated delivery system of mail and packages and that makes sense. If you can deliver mail to somebody, you should also be delivering the package, right? That’s much more efficient. But we say that this has no impact on existing rules governing how the Postal Service attributes costs between packages and mail. 

“This is important to me because this makes sure that the private sector will not be subject to unfair competition. In addition to doing all these things, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will result in a little more than $1 billion in savings and outliers and $458 million in savings in direct spending. So bottom line is Congressional Budget Office, CBO, the nonpartisan group up here in Congress, has looked at this and said there’s going to be a $1.5 billion savings to the taxpayer because of this legislation. $1.5 billion savings to the taxpayer. 

“Because it makes sense, this legislation received strong bipartisan support when it was taken up in the House of Representatives. In fact, it was passed by a vote of 342 to 92. Not much gets passed with those kind of big bipartisan numbers these days. Republicans and Democrats alike looked at this and said, you know, Post Office is in trouble. We’ve got to do something. Some say, well, this may not be perfect. Well, it’s not perfect. Nothing is around here. But it’s a whole lot better than the alternative. And it does get the Post Office back on track, again, along with the reforms that are being undertaken at the Post Office itself, this legislation gives them the financial breathing room they need to be able to save the Post Office. 

“So I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill. Let’s put the Post Office in a position to succeed and provide those essential services that small businesses, veterans, and rural constituents rely on so much. I appreciate working with my colleague, Senator Peters, on this over time to find a way to find consensus, both sides had to make concessions to get to this point. We’ve ended up with a good bill. Let’s pass this bill and ensure that the Post Office is healthy for our constituents going forward. I yield back my time.”