Congress Approves Temporary Financial Relief for USPS

NAPS Leg/Reg Update – October 1, 2009
Just hours before the end of the fiscal year, the Senate late yesterday approved emergency financial relief for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, reducing its obligation to pre-fund future retiree health benefits by $4 billion in FY 2009. The postal relief was included in a government-wide stopgap funding measure to keep operations running for another 30 days. That stop measure in turn was included in an FY 2010 funding bill for the legislative branch of the government. The House had approved the same comprehensive package last week. (The House earlier on September 15 had approved the same USPS financial relief, in H.R. 22, on a 388-32 vote.)

Final passage of the Senate funding bill came on a 62-38 vote, largely along party lines. Two key procedural votes in the Senate earlier in the day cleared the way for the final vote. The first was a 61-39 vote to defeat a point-of-order raised by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), contesting the fact that the stopgap government-wide funding bill had not been previously approved by either chamber and thereby violated Senate rules. The postal relief provisions were included in the government-wide funding bill.

The second key vote was on a point-of-order raised by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to knock out the postal relief provisions because they had not been previously included in the budget resolution approved earlier in the year by the Senate. Gregg also contended that the postal relief action (despite not involving taxpayer money) would raise the federal deficit by $4 billion. Gregg’s point-of-order failed on a 61-39 vote.

To see how your Senators voted on each of these votes:

Click here for the 61-39 vote to defeat the McCain point-of-order (NAPS supported a “Yes” vote)

Click here for the 61-39 vote to defeat the Gregg point-of-order (NAPS supported a “Yes” vote)

Click here for the 62-38 vote to pass the Legislative Appropriations measure, which included the USPS financial relief provisions (NAPS supported a “Yes” vote).

NAPS President Ted Keating thanked Congress for its action in passing the financial relief measure and preserving the financial stability of the Postal Service. Keating also pointed to the need for Congress to revisit the obligation it saddled the Postal Service with in 2006 to aggressively pre-fund its retiree health benefits. “Those pre-funding commitments are simply too large for any institution, whether government or commercial, to assume,” Keating said. “They must be changed.”

President Keating also extended his thanks to the many NAPS members who contacted their lawmakers over the past months, urging passage of the financial relief legislation. “Don’t let up, we’re far from the end,” Keating said. “We’ll be working with Congress a lot more on postal issues in the coming months,” he predicted.

Bruce Moyer

NAPS Legislative Counsel