Senate Passes Bill to Help Shore Up U.S. Postal Service

April 26, 2012

By Dan Friedman, National Journal

The Senate voted 62 to 37 on Wednesday to pass a bill freeing the U.S. Postal Service to take steps to shore up its shaky finances, putting pressure on the House to act on its alternative bill.

The United States Postal Service, which has supported itself since 1970, has been hemorrhaging billions of dollars due to a decline in mail volume and congressional reluctance to approve measures such as reducing the agency’s workforce, ending Saturday mail delivery, and closing postal facilities.

The bill frees the agency to recover $11 billion in over payments to federal retirement accounts and allows it to offer buyouts to hundreds of thousands of postal employees. Backers say the bill could save the agency more than $15 billion a year.

But senators blocked the post office from closing thousands of money-losing post offices and mail processing centers, instead approving a process that will allow hundreds of closures and create a more robust appeal process for affected communities. Lawmakers only partly granted a post office request to scale back first class mail. The bill also bars the postal service from ending Saturday mail delivery for at least two years.

The House has yet to schedule action on an alternative bill passed by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lack of House action makes it unlikely Congress will pass a bill before the May 15 expiration of a moratorium on post office closures the agency agreed to. Senators said they hope the agency will honor the moratorium until Congress acts.

“We’re moving as fast as we can,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

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