The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Johnson) for 5 minutes.
Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge my colleagues in this do-nothing Congress to take politics out of the post office.
The post office was explicitly authorized in article I, section 8, clause 7 of the United States Constitution. It began its operations on July 26, 1775, and Ben Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General. That's a long time ago.
It has a legal obligation to serve everyone, regardless of geography, and at a uniform cost with uniform services. And it has exclusive access to boxes that are marked ``U.S. Postal'' or ``U.S. Post Office.'' And it also competes with private package delivery services.
In 2006, Congress forced the United States Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of retiree insurance premiums. No other company, public or private, is forced to comply with such an unnecessary and destructive policy.
Mr. Speaker, House Republicans cited declining mail volumes and a growing labor force as the primary reasons why the 2006 legislation was necessary. Yet 2005, 2006, and 2007 were the highest volume years in U.S. Postal Service history. In fact, 2006 was the highest volume year ever.
Mr. Speaker, the real motivation behind the 2006 legislation was to break the back of a public sector union and privatize the mailing industry. Why else would Congress alter an entity that hasn't taken a dime of United States taxpayers' money in 30 years?
According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Postal Service was self-supporting since 1971, using postage sales to fund operations. The Postal Service was so profitable that it returned money to the Treasury every single year, while providing free services to the visually impaired and persons overseas.
If the Postal Service was a private corporation, or if it had been a private corporation at that time, my colleagues across the aisle would have hailed it as the model of economic success and sung its praises from sea to shining sea.
Since the pre-funding mandate of 2006, however, the Postal Service has nearly crumbled under the weight of its pension costs. How does an organization that had robust profits for 30 years, leading up to the 2006 legislation, suddenly start running deficits and lose $25 billion between 2007 and 2011?
How did the U.S. Postal Service go from no debt in 2006 to over $13 billion in debt today?
Many of my colleagues on the other side have well-connected friends who advocate for Postal Service privatization. I'm here to connect the dots for the American people.
Instead of wasting time today, this do-nothing Congress should vote to stop the damage inflicted upon the United States Postal Service by passing H.R. 1351. This bipartisan postal reform bill protects the hardworking employees of the Postal Service.
The U.S. Postal Service was not in danger of becoming insolvent until Congress decided to meddle in its affairs. It's hypocritically inconsistent for my friends on the other side of the aisle to talk about government being the problem, while they don't acknowledge that they created a big problem for the post office. It is hypocritical.
Mr. Speaker, the Postal Service already missed a $5.5 billion payment in August. Congress must act before the post office defaults on another payment later this month. Instead of scheduling political votes that highlight our differences, let's stop the madness and do what is in the best interest of the American people, the economy, and communities across the Nation.
The Postal Service employs 700,000 of our fellow citizens, over 17,000 of whom are from my State of Georgia.
One-third are military veterans who deliver 212 billion pieces of mail to over 144 million locations. This is the middle class that's doing this. If privatization advocates like the Koch brothers get their wish, the Postal Service will slowly be destroyed, causing good jobs to be lost and allowing companies to raise prices of delivery. Taking action to strengthen the Postal Service's finances is not just good for the letter carriers and postmasters; it's also good for business. There is $1.3 trillion in mailing industry proceeds out there that support 7 million private sector jobs. The time to act, ladies and gentlemen, is now.