WASHINGTON — 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-disputed postal overhaul has taken years to prepare and has had many complaints about courier 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.
“The Post Office usually delivers for us, but today we’re going to deliver for them,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.
Congress mustered rare bipartisan support for the postal services package, abandoning some of the more controversial proposals to settle on the basic means of saving the service and ensuring its future operations. Last month, the House approved the bill, 342-92, with all Democrats and most Republicans voting in favor. On Tuesday, the Senate sent him to Biden’s office on a 79-19 vote.
Republican Senator Jerry Moran said the Postal Service was in a “death spiral” that is particularly harsh on rural Americans, including in his state of Kansas, as post offices closed and services were cut . “Smart reforms were needed,” he said.
The Postal Service Reform Act would remove unusual budget requirements that have contributed to the Postal Service’s red ink and establish in law the requirement that mail be delivered six days a week, except on federal holidays, natural disasters and a few other situations.
Postage sales and other services were supposed to sustain the Postal Service, but it suffered 14 straight years of losses. Rising workers’ compensation and benefits costs, along with steadily declining mail volumes, have contributed to red ink, even as the Postal Service delivers to 1 million additional locations each year.
The bill would end the Postal Service’s obligation to pre-fund workers’ health care benefits for the next 75 years, an obligation that private companies and federal agencies do not face.
Instead, the Postal Service would require future retirees to enroll in Medicare and pay the actual health care costs of current retirees who are not covered by the federal health insurance program for the elderly.
Gone are the ideas of reducing mail delivery, which has become politically toxic. Also set aside, for now, are other proposals that have been floated over the years to change postal operations, including those to privatize certain services.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., reminded colleagues of the origins of the National Postal Service as a way to unify the young country, and its importance today in delivering cards, letters and a growing list of goods to American households.
Constituents rely on the Post Office to deliver government checks, prescription drugs, and many goods purchased online but ultimately delivered to doorsteps and mailboxes by the Postal Service.
“We need to save our Postal Service,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the bill’s chief architect. Portman said the bill is not a bailout and no new funding is going to the agency.
Postal Service Criticism peaked in 2020ahead of the presidential election as the cuts delayed service at a time when millions of Americans relied on mail-in ballots in the first year of the COVID-19 crisis.
At the time, President Donald Trump acknowledged he was trying to starve the postal service money to make it harder to process an expected increase in mail-in ballots, which he feared could cost him the election.
Dominated by Trump appointees, the agency’s board had exploited Louis DeJoy, a major GOP donor, as the new postmaster general. He offered a 10-year plan to stabilize the department’s finances with measures such as further mail slowdowns, reduced hours at some offices and possibly higher rates.
To measure the Postal Service’s progress in improving its service, the bill would also require it to set up an online “dashboard” that would be searchable by zip code to show how long it takes to deliver. letters and packages.
The legislation approved by Congress is backed by Biden, the Postal Service, postal workers’ unions and others.