Postal service

Congress Finally Passes Bill To Strengthen U.S. Postal Service

It took a while, but Congress actually passed the Postal Service Reform Act last night. The Associated Press reported:

Congress on Tuesday passed legislation that would bolster the U.S. Postal Service and ensure mail delivery six days a week, sending the bill to President Joe Biden to sign into law. The long-fought postal overhaul has been going on for years and comes with widespread complaints about postal service slowdowns. Many Americans have become dependent on the Postal Service during the Covid-19 crisis, but officials have repeatedly warned that without congressional action, it will run out of money by 2024.

As members prepared to approve the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The Post Office usually delivers for us, but today we’re going to deliver for them.”

Moments later, lawmakers did just that. One month after the House vote 342 to 92 to approve the bill, the Senate followed suit last night, voting 79 to 19. As was the case in the lower house, every senator who voted against the reform package was a Republican.

Nonetheless, the result is one of the most significant bipartisan bills in Congress today. In case anyone needs a refresher, let’s briefly go back to our previous coverage.

The USPS has been plagued with financial difficulties in recent years, and that is largely the fault of Congress. BNC News Explain last year that lawmakers approved a law in 2006 “that required the Postal Service to establish a $72 billion fund that would pay retirement health benefits for its employees for more than 50 years into the future” – a a requirement that does not exist for any other federal agency.

Unsurprisingly, the mandate that forced the USPS to prepay retirement benefits decades in advance had a huge impact on Postal Service balance sheets, sparking talk of a reform package.

New legislation approved by Congress would help to redress the situation. From a New York Times report:

To address the financial strain on the agency, the bill requires retired employees to enroll in Medicare when eligible and removes a mandate, first imposed by a 2006 law, that the agency covers its future health care costs decades in advance. The Postal Service estimates that these two changes will save the agency about $50 billion over a decade, according to a fact sheet provided by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, whose leaders led the efforts to draft legislation. The committee said it would be the agency’s most significant overhaul in nearly two decades.

Also, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the White House and congressional leaders are putting together a good list of bipartisan breakthroughs. BNC News Noted last month that there’s been a “burst of bipartisan activity” lately, and as we’ve discussed, there’s a fair amount of evidence to support the thesis.

The Forced Arbitration Bill was a laudable breakthrough, as was the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act. The Postal Service Reform Act will do a lot of good, as will a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which will be added to a spending package to be passed this week.

There have even been bipartisan discussions in the Senate about a bill strengthen the competitiveness of the United States vis-à-vis China, in particular by investing in the national production of semiconductors.

Moreover, just five months ago, the Democratic president also signed into law an important set of bipartisan infrastructures.

Are these landmark bills that will help define the generation along the lines of the Voting Rights Act or the Affordable Care Act? Probably not. Have the Republicans derailed all sorts of other valid bipartisan proposals yet? Clearly, yes.

But for a White House eager to show that Biden and Democratic leaders can make meaningful progress on worthwhile measures that will make a difference, there is a growing list of success stories.