Republican Sen. Rick Scott (Florida) shot down Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) attempt to bring a bipartisan bill to alleviate billions of dollars of debt for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to a swift vote on Monday.
The Postal Service Reform Act, which the House passed last week, gives the USPS’s finances much-needed reforms, forgiving $57 billion of its over $200 billion in liabilities. Critically, the bill gets rid of a requirement that the agency pre-pay Medicare costs for employees decades before they retire, which has kept the agency in debt for many years.
Schumer requested that the Senate bring the legislation to the floor via unanimous consent to make a small revision to correct a clerical error in the bill. Scott’s objection to the procedure will cause delays, which is “regrettable,” Schumer said.
“Even though this will delay the bill, we will pass it. We will have to just go through this elaborate process, the old fashioned and often discredited rules of the Senate that the senator from Florida’s employing,” Schumer said. “But we will pass this bill because America needs it.”
Because Scott blocked unanimous consent to fix the error, the bill could be delayed for another few weeks. As the Washington Post’s Jacob Bogage pointed out, the easiest path for the bill would be to send it back to the House to fix the error and then send it back to the Senate. But this would prolong the process to at least March.
Scott claimed that he supports the bill, but that he thinks it should undergo a slower process through the Senate. In a press release on Monday, however, he said that he believes the provision to help dig the USPS out of debt would supposedly harm Medicare – although no other agency is required to pay Medicare decades in advance like the USPS is.
In reality, Scott is likely trying to keep the Postal Service in debt as a means of advancing the larger conservative goal of defunding the agency and perhaps eventually privatizing it. GOP lawmakers have also attacked and attempted to delegitimize the USPS for years to throw doubt on the mail-in voting system, which Republicans claim helps Democrats win elections. Indeed, ahead of the 2020 election, Scott introduced legislation that would have effectively invalidated a huge portion of mail-in votes in future elections.
However, Scott’s delay may end up frustrating both Republicans and Democrats alike. The bill passed the House on a widely bipartisan basis, with a 342 to 92 vote margin. GOP members view the legislation as an endorsement of conservative Postmaster Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan to slow service and increase costs for the agency, which has garnered fierce opposition from Democrats and the public.
Still, the bill’s reforms are vital for the long-term health of the agency, Democrats have said. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-New York), who introduced the bill, praised its passage in the House last week. “These reforms ensure the Postal Service continues as an independently operated organization that Americans can continue to rely on for the years to come,” she said.
The bill has the support of at least 14 Republican senators, meaning that it likely has enough votes in the Senate to pass when it eventually comes to a vote.