(11/9/11) Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed bipartisan postal relief legislation (S. 1789) by a record vote of 9-1. (Counting proxies, the vote was 12-5.) The committee markup was attended by President Robert Rapoza and Government Relations Director Bob Levi.
The Committee overwhelming adopted key NAPUS-promoted amendments. As reported in last week’s NAPUS web posting, President Rapoza requested a moratorium on post office discontinuances; asked for management association participation in the design of a new postal health plan; and raised concern about mandatory Medicare coverage for all Medicare-eligible postal retirees.
Over the past few weeks, NAPUS has been working with Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Committee Ranking GOP Susan Collins (R-ME) to craft an amendment that would establish statutory postal retail service standards, to ensure that all Americans have access to retail postal services. Failure to comply with the standards could result in a complaint being filed against the USPS with the Postal Regulatory Commission. The NAPUS-advanced amendment can be viewed here. Under the Moran Amendment, the USPS must take into account proximity to customers, demography (age and population density), and transportation and climate challenges in remote areas in setting standards. Moreover, the amendment requires a moratorium on post office closures, pending the implementation of the retail standards (i.e., 6 months from the date of enactment). Also, the standards would apply to communities that suffered the loss of their post office, during the time period one year prior to enactment (e.g., post office subject to the Retail Access Optimization Initiative). The amendment carried the bipartisan sponsorship of Senators Moran, Tester, Collins, Begich (D-AK), McCaskill (D-MO) and Landrieu (D-LA); it was approved by 12-4 vote. The only Senators voting no were Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Rand Paul (R-KY).
Another provision that NAPUS sought was the ability to participate in the design of the a postal health plan that would be collective-bargained with the four major postal labor unions. Although Postmasters could not bound to the decisions reached by the unions over a postal health plan, NAPUS requested a substantive role in the deliberations. (It is important to note that adoption of a new health plan requires the unanimous support of the unions.) An amendment to S. 1789 included a provision that creates a constructive role for management and supervisory organizations in designing the plan, and reserved the right of any Postmaster to choose whether or not to remain in FEHBP, should a new postal plan be established. NAPUS worked closely with Chairman Lieberman and Ranking GOP Collins on this provision.
Finally, NAPUS was concerned about requiring all Medicare-eligible postal employees to be restricted to only a Medigap policy, denying them the choice to decline Medicare coverage and be covered solely by FEHBP, or enabling them to coordinate their FEHBP benefits with Medicare. (Postal employees who retired after 1983 are eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B.) Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) proposed an amendment that eliminated the Medicare mandate provision; it was approved by a 11-6 vote.
The underlying bill includes a postal retirement incentive, which, in part, is funded by the $7 billion FERS overpayment. The incentive provides a cash incentive of up to $25,000, or one-year CSRS credit or two-years FERS credit. Unfortunately, S. 1789 does not address the CSRS $55 billion overpayment issue.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Lieberman announced that he received assurance from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that the legislation would get floor time as soon as possible.
Senate Committee Grants NAPUS Requests