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Congress finally passes bill to shore up the U.S. Postal Service

“The post office usually delivers for us, but today we’re going to deliver for them,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.


It took a long while, but Congress actually passed the Postal Service Reform Act last night. The Associated Press reported:

Congress on Tuesday passed legislation that would shore up the U.S. Postal Service and ensure six-day-a-week mail delivery, sending the bill to President Joe Biden to sign into law. The long-fought postal overhaul has been years in the making and comes amid widespread complaints about mail service slowdowns. Many Americans became dependent on the Postal Service during the Covid-19 crisis, but officials have repeatedly warned that without congressional action it would run out of cash by 2024.

As members prepared to approve the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared, “The post office usually delivers for us, but today we’re going to deliver for them.”

Moments later, lawmakers proceeded to do exactly that. A month after the House voted 342 to 92 to approve the bill, the Senate followed suit last night, voting 79 to 19. As was the case in the lower chamber, every senator who voted in opposition to the reform package was a Republican.

Nevertheless, the result is one of the more important bipartisan bills of the current Congress. In case anyone needs a refresher, let’s briefly circle back to our earlier coverage.

The USPS has been plagued by financial challenges in recent years, and it’s largely Congress’ fault. NBC News explained last year that lawmakers approved a law in 2006 “that required the Postal Service to create a $72 billion fund that would pay for its employees’ retirement health benefits for more than 50 years into the future” — a requirement that does not exist for any other federal agency.

Not surprisingly, the mandate that forced the USPS to prepay retirement benefits decades in advance has taken a dramatic toll on the Postal Services’ balance sheets, spurring talk of a reform package.

The new legislation approved by Congress would help put things right. From a New York Times report:

To address the financial strain on the agency, the bill requires retired employees to enroll in Medicare when they are eligible and removes a mandate, first imposed by a 2006 law, that the agency cover its future health care costs decades in advance. The Postal Service estimates that those two changes will save the agency about $50 billion over a decade, according to a fact sheet provided by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, whose leaders led efforts to draft the legislation. The committee said it would be the most significant overhaul of the agency in nearly two decades.

What’s more, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the White House and congressional leaders are putting together a good list of bipartisan breakthroughs. NBC News noted last month that there’s been a “flurry of bipartisan activity” of late, and as we’ve discussed, there’s a fair amount of evidence to bolster the thesis.

The bill on forced arbitration was a worthwhile breakthrough, as was the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act. The Postal Service Reform Act is going to do a significant amount of good, as will a bipartisan agreement on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which will be added to a spending package that will pass this week.

There’s even been some bipartisan talk in the Senate on a bill to strengthen U.S. competitiveness toward China by, among other things, investing in domestic semiconductor production.

What’s more, it was just five months ago when the Democratic president also signed into law a significant, bipartisan infrastructure package.

Are these historic bills that will help define the generation along the lines of the Voting Rights Act or the Affordable Care Act? Probably not. Did Republicans still derail all kinds of other worthwhile bipartisan proposals? Clearly, yes.

But for a White House eager to show that Biden and Democratic leaders can make meaningful progress on worthwhile measures that will make a difference, there’s a growing list of success stories.