Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) today introduced legislation to modernize the U.S. Postal Service, save Saturday mail and repeal a crippling law responsible for 80 percent of the mail system's funding woes.
"While we all understand that the Postal Service is experiencing financial problems today and that changes need to be made as the Postal Service adjusts to a digital world, these issues can be dealt with in a way which strengthens the Postal Service rather than initiating a series of cuts that could eventually lead to a death spiral," Sanders said.
The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
"Congress must work together and pass legislation that will sustain the Postal Service, avert unnecessary closures that hurt communities and save American jobs. Most of the financial issues facing the United States Postal Service are due to short-sighted actions by Congress. Congress must unshackle USPS so we can deal with these problems and allow the Postal Service to better compete," DeFazio said.
Under the legislation, proposed cuts to Saturday delivery would be prevented. "Providing fewer services and less quality will cause more customers to seek other options," Sanders said. "Rural Americans, businesses, senior citizens and veterans will be hurt the most by ending Saturday mail."
The measure would let the Postal Service look for innovative new ways to make money by lifting legal bans on services such as notarizing documents, issuing hunting and fishing licenses and allowing shipments of wine and beer. It also would clear the way for the Postal Service to help customers take advantage of email and Internet services. Moreover, a commission would be created composed of successful business innovators and representatives from small business and labor to make recommendations on other ways the Postal Service could generate new revenue and thrive in the 21st century.
Arguably the most critical financial reform proposed by Sanders and DeFazio would be to rescind an onerous 2006 law pushed through a Republican-controlled House at the behest of President George W. Bush. Unlike any private business or other government agency, the law makes the post office pre-fund 75 years of future health care benefits for retirees over the course of 10 years. The $5 billion annual payments have been piling up in a fund that experts say already has more than enough in reserve. Since 2007, the pre-funding mandate is responsible for $4 out of every $5 in Postal Service debts.
The bill also would reinstate overnight delivery standards to speed mail delivery and prevent shutdowns of mail sorting centers. Safeguards also would be put in place to protect rural post offices.