The long-awaited legislation addresses operational and financial issues at the cash-strapped agency.
Mailboxes sit outside of a Morris Plains, New Jersey post office. | Theo Wargo/Getty Images
By Nicholas Wu and Hailey Fuchs
02/08/2022 05:24 PM EST
Updated: 02/08/2022 08:14 PM EST
Long-awaited legislation overhauling the Postal Service’s finances and operations sailed through the House Tuesday.
The bipartisan legislation passed the chamber in a 342-92 vote, despite controversy over the head of the Postal Service that had threatened to tank Republican support for the legislation.
“This bill is an agreement to fix some of the serious problems that have been looming over the Post Office for years and threatening its financial stability,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), one of the lawmakers leading the legislation.
The vote caps off a bipartisan push in both chambers to address yearslong financial insolvency at the Postal Service, stemming from several entrenched problems, including an agency requirement to prefund retiree health benefits. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it also enjoys considerable bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement later Tuesday that the Senate would take up and pass the bill in the coming weeks. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), one of the lawmakers spearheading his chamber’s push for the legislation, said the reforms would “help ensure the Postal Service’s long-term success.”
Among its provisions, the bill would require Postal Service retirees to enroll in Medicare and eliminates the requirement that the agency prefund its retiree health benefits for 75 years in the future, saving the beleaguered agency tens of billions of dollars over the next decade. It would also mandate that the Postal Service create a dashboard with performance data and continue to deliver at least six days each week.
Advocates for the service have long sought the elimination of the pre-funding requirement, arguing the Postal Service was burdened with an expensive mandate not imposed on other agencies. The head of the Postal Service, Louis DeJoy, told lawmakers last year the repeal of the mandate was one of their “key requests” to Congress.
“The Postal Service thanks the leadership of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform for their thoughtful, bipartisan collaboration to pass the much needed Postal Service Reform Act,” DeJoy said in a statement.
A number of groups had also offered their support for the legislation, such as Amazon and Hallmark, along with postal unions such as the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers. The White House has also said it supports the legislation.
DeJoy, an ally of former President Donald Trump, has continued to face political headwinds. Democrats have heavily criticized DeJoy over cuts he implemented to stem the agency’s losses. The cash-strapped agency lost $1.3 billion last quarter, though it is currently implementing a plan to reverse its losses over the next decade. According to the Postal Service, without congressional action, the agency will run out of funds for operational expenses by the 2023 fiscal year, and its fund for retiree health benefits will be depleted by the 2030 fiscal year.
Less clear, though, is how long DeJoy will continue to serve at the head of the Postal Service despite Democrats’ opposition. The nine White House-appointed governors of the Postal Service’s board would have to take action to remove DeJoy, and several of President Joe Biden’s nominees to the board are still awaiting confirmation by the full Senate. No more than five of the board’s governors can belong to the same political party.
President of the American Postal Workers Union Mark Dimondstein said that he was pleased with the bill’s strong bipartisan support but that Tuesday’s passage was only “half the battle.” Some might call it a “skinny” bill, he said, but it addresses the major issues facing the agency.
“The American Postal Workers Union fully supports the legislation,” Dimondstein said in an interview. “We think it’s good for the postal public. We think it’s good for the public Postal Service, and we think it’s good for postal workers.”
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House passes bill to ease Postal Service financial woes – POLITICO