Postal Bill Set for Final Vote Next Week

Posted April 19, 2012 at 8:00pm

The Senate is on track to finish work on a postal reform bill next week after Senate leaders reached an agreement to consider 39 amendments to the measure, including a proposal to pass the House version.

“We’ve ended up with a process here that will allow discussion and votes on a wide range of amendments on both sides,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the U.S. Postal Service.

The Connecticut Independent said he doesn’t expect all of the amendments to require roll call votes, which would speed up the process of considering the amendments. Final passage could come as soon as Tuesday.

“If we don’t do anything it’s only going to get worse, and a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and a lot of people who depend on the mail are not going to be able to get it in the same way,” Lieberman said.

The USPS, with about 570,000 employees, is the second largest civilian employer after Walmart. But with the increase in paperless communication and a commensurate decline in mail volume, the agency projects a $14.1 billion net loss for fiscal 2012.

The substitute amendment, being offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would replace the bill with the House version of the reform bill, which would set up a board to oversee the USPS and implement measures to cut costs.

The Lieberman bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also would cut costs and reduce service. But it sets up a more gradual process to close post offices and cut service, with more input from communities, supporters argue.

Other amendments to be considered include a proposal from Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to establish a two-year moratorium on closing rural post offices. The amendment also requires that certain conditions be met in order to close rural post offices such as ensuring that seniors and people with disabilities receive the same or substantially similar service. Also, the economic loss as a result of the closure cannot exceed the savings the postal service obtains in closing the facility.

The Senate will also consider an amendment from Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who is fighting to keep a mail-processing center open in Easton, Md. Her amendment would require a governor’s certification to close a postal facility. The governor would have to certify that the proposed closing or consolidation would not harm community safety; would not directly or indirectly disrupt commerce; and would not limit access to communications in any rural community that lacks broadband Internet availability or cellular telephone coverage.