Feb 6 Three senators called for the U.S.
Postal Service to reconsider closing thousands of facilities and
urged an end to a multibillion-dollar annual payment by the
USPS, highlighting debate in Congress over how to reform the
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Democratic
Senators Mary Landrieu and Patrick Leahy said on Monday that a
Postal Service plan to study closing more than 3,600 post
offices and about 250 processing facilities would eliminate
needed jobs and hurt rural communities.
The leading Senate bill, offered by a bipartisan coalition
including independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, includes some
restrictions on post office closings. Sanders said he has been
talking to the bill's sponsors about requiring USPS to consider
Internet access, cellphone service and other factors before
closing post offices.
Sanders said he did not want to prevent the closing of every
small post office. "It's a question of stopping the draconian
cuts," he said.
The bill was approved by a Senate committee in November.
Senate aides say the legislation likely will not come up for a
vote until the end of February.
The Postal Service has been struggling with falling mail
volumes as consumers turn to sending email and paying bills
online, as well as high labor costs.
The service, which relies on the sale of stamps and other
products rather than taxpayer funding, will release quarterly
financial results on Thursday. Officials have said they could
run out of money by the end of the fiscal year in September.
The Senate legislation, which would let the Postal Service
tap into a surplus in its retirement account, allow it to offer
new services, and set up a process for eliminating Saturday
delivery, faces opposition from many fronts.
Sanders and other members have called for Congress to end an
annual payment covering future retiree health benefits, which
the Postal Service could not pay in 2011. The bill stretches
those payments out over a longer time frame and reduces the
total amount that must be prefunded.
"The Postal Service must be released from the onerous and
unprecedented burden of being forced to put $5.5 billion every
single year into their future retiree health benefit funds,"
Sanders said. He circulated on Monday a letter from the agency's
inspector general backing his plan.
A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office
found the Senate bill would cost $6.3 billion.
The bill's sponsors have criticized the CBO score, which
assumes reducing some payments would cause the Postal Service to
be less aggressive in cutting costs.
A spokesman for Republican Senator Susan Collins, one of the
bill's sponsors, said it would save more than $18 billion. But
some lawmakers could be squeamish about voting for legislation
that appears to "bail out" the Postal Service amid the
deficit-cutting fervor in Washington this year.
"Our bipartisan bill will put the Postal Service on firmer
financial footing and doesn't leave taxpayers on the hook,"
Collins said in a statement. "It's not a bailout and does not
shift responsibility for the Postal Service's red ink to the