In contemporary politics, important and substantive bills tend to narrowly pass amid fierce partisan divisions, which made it all the more notable when the House approved worthwhile legislation with relatively broad support. The New York Times reported overnight:
The House on Tuesday approved the most significant overhaul of the Postal Service in nearly two decades, seeking to address the beleaguered agency’s financial woes and counter pandemic-era mail delays that became a flash point in the 2020 elections.
The final roll call showed the bill clearing the chamber, 342 to 92. Democrats were unanimous in the support for the legislation, and they were joined by 120 Republicans. (A total of 92 GOP House members voted against it.)
The result is one of the more important bipartisan bills of the current Congress.
In case anyone needs a refresher, 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 legislation that passed the House yesterday would help put things right. From the 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.
Right about now, I can hear some of you through your screens. “Yes, yes, I’m sure it’s a very nice bill,” you’re saying, “but plenty of perfectly nice bills pass the House. So long as the Senate filibuster exists, what difference does it make?”
But in this case, the truth isn’t nearly so discouraging: The Senate version of the Postal Service Reform Act currently has 14 Republican co-sponsors. So long as they continue to support their own bill, this legislation will be on track to actually pass and reach the White House — where it will receive a warm welcome from President Joe Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement yesterday afternoon, announcing his intention to bring the bill to the floor quite soon. “With an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House, it is my intention for the Senate to take up and pass this bipartisan, bicameral postal reform bill before the end of this work period,” the New York Democrat said.
As for why, exactly, so many Republicans are going along with this effort, it’s worth remembering an important detail: Americans really do care about the Postal Service. The Times’ article described the USPS as “a popular mainstay of American life,” which is absolutely accurate.
Even GOP lawmakers have an incentive to boast to their constituents about helping rescue the agency that delivers their mail.