New Congress pledges action on postal reform

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., signed a joint statement promising movement. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., signed a joint statement promising movement. Charles Dharapak/AP

A bipartisan, bicameral coalition of lawmakers has called for a redoubled effort on U.S. Postal Service reform in the new Congress, saying Democrats and Republicans made major strides toward finding common ground over the last two years.

While the Senate and House failed to strike a deal in the recently ended 112th Congress, oversight leaders in both chambers said the New Year offers another chance for major changes to the mail delivery agency.

“Although the 112th Congress did not come to a consensus around a package of reforms that can update the Postal Service's network and business model to reflect the reality that it faces today, we remain committed to working with our colleagues in both the House and the Senate to reform the Postal Service so it can survive and thrive in the 21st century,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and newly appointed Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., in a joint statement.

They added there is reason for optimism.

“While our approaches have differed in the past, we made significant progress in narrowing our differences in recent months, and our commitment to restoring this American institution to long-term solvency is unwavering,” they said.

During the last Congress, the Senate passed a bill that would have would have reformed the controversial mandate to prefund retirees’ health benefits, potentially cut delivery to a five-day schedule, and authorized mass buyout and early retirement offerings. Carper co-sponsored the bill.

The House oversight committee passed a bill -- authored by Issa -- that would have closed and consolidated postal facilities, reduced delivery days from six a week to five, created an audit group to recommend savings, prohibited labor contracts that prevent layoffs, allowed the agency to sell advertising on its facilities and vehicles and required USPS employees to pay the same amount into their health and life insurance as other federal workers.

The bill did not make it to the House floor.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on Thursday called the inaction over the last two years “disappointing” and said USPS has taken many steps to reduce costs, including shedding 60,000 employees and consolidating 70 mail processing facilities.

“As we look to the coming year, we are on an unsustainable financial path,” Donahoe said in a statement. “We are currently losing $25 million per day, we have defaulted on $11.1 billion in Treasury payments and exhausted our borrowing authority. The Postal Service should not have to do business this way.”

Donahoe said his agency will continue to look for cost-cutting measures, but renewed his call for congressional action.

“We encourage the new 113th Congress to make postal reform an urgent priority, and to work steadily toward the quick passage of reform legislation. We will continue to work with leaders of our House and Senate oversight committees and all members of Congress to help make this happen.”

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