Senators lift holds on postal reform bill, paving way for vote

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has lifted his hold on sweeping postal overhaul legislation, clearing the way for the measure to be approved by the full Senate.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., also had a hold on the bill, which he released earlier this week, postal lobbyists said.

Sessions' spokesman said he placed the hold last month so he could further examine the legislation before allowing it to pass by unanimous consent. "We wanted an opportunity to review the bill. Several senators spent a considerable amount of time looking at the legislation. We believe it's better than the House legislation and our hope is that it will be improved in conference," Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions' concerns, which centered around the bill's budget impact, were eased when staff for Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would consider changes to language that gives the Postal Service access to money slated for an escrow account and shifts the agency's $27 billion military pensions obligation to the Treasury, congressional aides and postal lobbyists said.

The administration has expressed similar concerns, threatening to veto the bill if those provisions remain unchanged.

But a congressional aide said Sessions made it clear he could renew his opposition if his concerns are not addressed in conference. A spokesman for DeMint did not return calls. Sessions' decision to release his hold means the bill could be approved by unanimous consent as early as Wednesday night, but postal lobbyists say contentious debate over an asbestos measure could delay consideration.

"That's going to be the complicating factor this week," one lobbyist said.

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