A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would help relieve significant financial burdens that have plagued the United States Postal Service (USPS) for years, saving the agency nearly $46 billion, the lawmakers claim.
The bill removes a requirement that the USPS set aside money to fund the retirement for all of its employees, regardless of age, and decades in advance. That mandate has put a huge strain on the agency’s budget since it was enacted by Republicans in 2006 and has come under intense scrutiny since the GOP began unduly criticizing USPS over its financial situation last year — a situation that their party created.
The Postal Service Reform Act of 2021 is identical to a House bill that passed the Oversight and Reform Committee last week. Senators Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who head the Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the USPS, led the bill’s introduction in the Senate on Wednesday.
While previous attempts to scrap the USPS’s funding burden have fallen flat, the new bill has a higher likelihood of passing because it has 10 Senate Republican co-sponsors. Assuming that all 50 Democratic senators vote for the bill as expected, the combined 60 votes will be enough to overcome a filibuster. And advocates say that they’re confident they can whip even more votes from the right, per The Washington Post.
On top of the mandate repeal, the bipartisan proposal creates financial and operational oversight requirements for the agency. It requires the Postal Service to continue delivering six days a week, create service targets and publish their progress online and submit biannual reports on its operational and financial health.
“Millions of Americans and Michiganders, including seniors, veterans, and small business owners, rely on the Postal Service to deliver. For decades, the Postal Service has struggled to overcome unfair and burdensome financial requirements that risk its ability to continue providing reliable service in the long run,” said Peters in a statement.
“This commonsense, bipartisan legislation would help put the Postal Service on a sustainable financial footing, ensure it is more transparent and accountable to the American people, and support hardworking postal workers who deliver rain or shine to communities all across the country,” Peters continued.
The pre-funding mandate has imposed nearly $161 billion in debt on the agency, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has exploited the agency’s dire financial situation to slash services and gut the USPS from the inside out. DeJoy’s controversial 10-year plan for the service would make major changes to service and slow mail deliveries that are already sluggish because of service cuts that he made last year.
Portman tied Wednesday’s legislation to DeJoy’s plan, saying that the two proposals in combination could help pull the USPS out of debt.
But, though the bill could help the USPS’s finances, critics have said that DeJoy’s plan wouldn’t result in net positive changes for the service. As Michael Hiltzik wrote for the Los Angeles Times, DeJoy is treating the USPS like a business that needs to make a profit. But the goal of the USPS isn’t profit: It’s to provide a vital service to the U.S. public.
“The USPS is a public service — the truth is right there in its very name,” writes Hiltzik. “Forcing it to operate like a business, say by paying its own way on a profit-and-loss basis, is a path to exacerbating its problems and destroying it from within.”
The good news for those in opposition to DeJoy’s plan and his modus operandi, however, is that he may well be on his way out soon. President Joe Biden’s postal board nominees are set for confirmation votes by the Senate. If they are confirmed, the board will have enough Democratic voting members to finally remove DeJoy from his position.