Op-Ed:  The Postal Service Needs Our Help & The Senate Must Deliver

POST-OFFICE
File Photo from amNY
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney

The United States Postal Service is one of our most prized national institutions, but it has faced financial trouble for many years.  The pandemic that engulfed our nation two years ago exacerbated these challenges as the Postal Service was stressed to its operational limits and millions of Americans in every corner of the country found that they needed the Postal Service like never before. 

Across the country—in cities, suburbs, and rural areas—Americans have relied on the Postal Service more than ever to deliver lifesaving medicine, masks, and test kits.  As the motto goes:  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  The coronavirus does not stop the Postal Service either.  In fact, the Postal Service answered the call despite the very real risks to its personnel and a lack of adequate resources.  When America needed it most, the Postal Service was there for America.  And right now, the Postal Service needs some help from us.

While there is much that divides us, there are issues on which Democrats and Republicans can and do work together.  Protecting and strengthening the Postal Service so it can serve all Americans—regardless of zip code—is one of these issues.

The Postal Service is a critical link, and a common thread, that has helped to bind our nation since the American Revolution, when the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin the first postmaster general.  Today, no other entity reaches every American, six days a week, no matter the weather and no matter where they live in this vast country.  As the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service, we are dedicated to ensuring that this American institution can continue to perform its critical mission.

The Postal Service began facing a deteriorating financial situation almost immediately after Congress passed the last postal reform legislation in 2006 due to decreasing use of First-Class Mail.  This situation has continued despite increased demand for package shipping.   The Postal Service has tens of billions of dollars in debts and is projected to run a $160 billion deficit over the next ten years if Congress doesn’t act.  A significant reason are the outdated laws under which it must operate.  

That is why we introduced the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act.  Let’s be clear, this is a bill to save the Postal Service.  It will do that by removing the legislative relic that the Postal Service prefund retiree health benefits.  This might have worked when First Class Mail left the Postal Service with plenty of cash but does not today—and it has not worked for over a decade. Coupled with a provision directing postal retirees to utilize the Medicare benefits they have already earned, something retirees from all other American businesses do, this bill will reduce the Postal Service’s obligations by $50 billion over the next ten years.  

The bill will also require the Postal Service to create a public, online dashboard where it would post weekly updates on service performance.  This will vastly improve transparency and give us the ability to spot problems or glitches as they arise.  This information will help Congress and the public hold Postal Service leadership accountable when mail is not being delivered on time.  This transparency will also enhance the American public’s trust and confidence in the Postal Service, which has been shaken in recent years.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill will help the Postal Service’s finances while at the same time decreasing federal spending by $1.5 billion.  This bill is not only a win for the Postal Service and its customers, it’s a win for the American taxpayer as well.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives did its job and delivered for the American people by delivering for the Postal Service.  The House passed the Postal Service Reform Act with a bipartisan vote of 342-92.  Now it’s the Senate’s turn.

Our colleagues in the Senate, Chairman Gary Peters and Ranking Member Rob Portman, introduced an identical bipartisan bill that now has 14 Republicans and 14 Democrats as cosponsors.  There is no reason that this critical bipartisan reform should not pass the Senate and go to the President’s desk as soon as possible.

The Postal Service is a key part of our country’s history—and our future.  Members of Congress from across the country and the political spectrum support this legislation.  We call on the Senate to pass this bill as soon as possible so the Postal Service can continue to serve the American people.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney represents New York’s 12th Congressional District covering Manhattan’s East Side and parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

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