Under bipartisan legislation the House approved Tuesday, Congress would lift onerous budget requirements that have helped push the Postal Service deeply into debt and would require it to continue delivering mail six days per week. The election-year bill, coming at a time of widespread complaints about slower mail service, would also require the Postal Service to display online how efficiently it delivers mail to communities, the AP reports. The bill, which the New York Times calls the "most significant overhaul" of the service in almost 20 years, passed the House 342-92, with all Democrats and a majority of Republicans backing it. A companion bill in the Senate has more than a dozen Republican co-sponsors and is expected to pass easily within weeks.
The Postal Service is supposed to sustain itself with postage sales and other services, but has suffered 14 straight years of losses. The reasons include growing workers' compensation and benefit costs plus steady declines in mail volume, even as it delivers to 1 million additional locations every year. Postal Service officials have said without congressional action, it will run out of cash by 2024. It has estimated it will lose $160 billion over the coming decade. Those pressures have brought the two parties together for a measure aimed at helping the Postal Service, its employees, businesses that use it, and disgruntled voters who rely on it for delivery of prescription drugs, checks, and other packages.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Democratic chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said the Postal Service "provides service to every American, no matter where they live, binding us together in a way no other organization does." Rep. James Comer, the committee's top Republican, said the bill will "help it succeed into the 21st century.” The bill would end a requirement that the Postal Service finance, in advance, health care benefits for current and retired workers for the next 75 years. Instead of those obligations, the Postal Service would pay current retirees' actual health care costs that aren't covered by Medicare. (Read more US Postal Service stories.)