The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee debated an updated version of postal reform legislation Wednesday that would allow the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service to restructure its health benefits program. Included in the revised postal reform bill from Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is a proposal that would create a new postal-only health plan within the broader Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).
A new bill would repeal reductions in military pensions approved by Congress late last month as part of the bipartisan budget deal and allow the U.S. Postal Service to reduce regular mail delivery to five days a week. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced the legislation Dec. 19, shortly before Congress decamped for the holidays.
The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service says it can return to being profitable and begin to pay down its debt if Congress gives it the authority to overhaul its health benefits structure. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday that launching a postal-specific health care plan would help save the agency $8 billion annually through 2016.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says a Senate bill aiming to overhaul the Postal Service's financial structure by providing the agency more flexibility to price its products is a good first step. Donahoe has been calling on Congress to approve comprehensive postal reform for much of the last two years. In that time, the cash-strapped agency has posted losses of $20 billion and defaulted on more than $11 billion in payments to prefund retiree health care costs. USPS is set to default on a $5.6 billion payment due Sept. 30 payment, Donahoe said.
Congress returns to work today with a crowded agenda and little time. Lawmakers must come to agreement on 2014 funding before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 or risk a government shutdown. Also on the agenda: coming up with an alternative to the automatic spending constraints known as sequestration and negotiating a raise in the government's borrowing limit. There are also other measures affecting federal employees that remain to be worked out, including legislation to overhaul the cash-strapped Postal Service and a potential 1 percent pay raise for civilian federal workers.
The Senate postal reform bill calls on the Office of Personnel Management to change the way it calculates how much the U.S. Postal Service must pay into the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System. The change could result in a $6 billion surplus for the debt-burdened USPS.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved major postal reform legislation Wednesday. The 22-17 party-line vote moves the 2013 Postal Reform Act, introduced by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), to the full House for consideration.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released long-anticipated legislation Friday aiming to reform the finances of the ailing U.S. Postal Service. Issa updated an earlier discussion draft of his bill with several proposals originally floated by Democrats.
In the past few weeks, competing draft proposals have been circulating on Capitol Hill. But at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) took a step toward compromise. Issa agreed to make changes to his draft plan, including adopting several measures proposed by Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in postal reform legislation he separately introduced Wednesday.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a draft postal reform bill that supports ending Saturday mail delivery and would modify how the agency pre-funds retiree health-care payments that now threaten to sink the agency into financial insolvency. Congressional postal reform efforts have remained dormant so far this year, even as the Postal Service's financial outlook has worsened.
If Congress doesn't pass comprehensive postal reform legislation soon, it could find itself forced to bail out the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service to the tune of billions of dollars, said Postmaster General Pat Donahoe. The postmaster general said in a speech at the National Press Club he's optimistic Congress will pass postal reform legislation this year.
Real reform for the U.S. Postal Service may be gaining some steam in Congress. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), the new chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, tells Federal News Radio, House leadership sees room for compromise with Democrats when it comes to figuring out ways to get USPS back in the black. Farenthold supports the Postal Service's plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.
The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service can't only cut its way to financial viability. In an increasingly digital world of declining mail volume, it also must find ways to increase revenue, the Government Accountability Office stated in a new report. Currently, USPS is pursuing 55 new initiatives designed to boost revenue.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said they were committed to working together to pass postal reform legislation in the new Congress. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe renewed his call for congressional action, saying the agency faces an "unsustainable" financial path.