Senate Passes U.S. Postal Service Reform Bill
Legislators took a major step toward overhauling the struggling United States Postal Service (USPS) on Wednesday. After a week of debate, the U.S. Senate voted 62-37 yesterday to approve The 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012 (S. 1789). The bipartisan legislation is intended to restructure the USPS and prevent it from falling into bankruptcy.
The 21st Century Postal Service Act will give the agency $11 billion to help it alleviate its debt. Part of that money is earmarked for contract buyouts and early retirement incentives for up to 100,000 postal employees. A great deal of the USPS's debt comes from a retiree benefits package that costs the organization $5 billion annually.
In exchange for the cash influx, Senators will require the postal service to halve the number of post offices it wanted to close, from 252 to 125, and to work with local communities to determine the level of mail service required before taking any actions.
"This comprehensive postal reform legislation will preserve vitally important rural post offices and mail processing plants," said Senator Bernie Sanders. "It also would give the Postal Service the flexibility that it needs to raise additional revenue in the years to come by offering innovative new products and services in the digital age."
The bill will now move to the U.S. House, where it is expected to face an uphill battle. House Republicans have drafted an alternative bill which would reduce the postal service's days of operation to five, eliminating Saturday delivery, and would create an oversight committee to rule on financial decisions for the USPS.
Related story: Senate Begins Debate on Bill to Restructure USPS