NAPS: Congress Heads Home Post Haste without Delivering on Postal

NAPS Leg/Reg Update – April 2, 2012

Senate and House lawmakers are now home for their two-week recess.  The Senate headed home last week for the Easter/Passover holiday period after a week of fits and starts on postal legislation, including a failed cloture vote.  When lawmakers return to the nation’s capital on April 16, they will have only a month to pass legislation before a moratorium on processing plant and post office closures expires on May 15.  Action by both chambers on postal legislation within the next month is unlikely, but Senate action remains a stronger possibility.

Last week, the prospect of Senate action on postal legislation was like a roller coaster ride.  Early Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appeared intent on bringing postal reform legislation to the floor.   By noon he had reversed course and turned the Senate’s attention to energy tax legislation, expecting Senate Republicans to resist.  Instead, Reid found them welcoming the opportunity to decry rising gas prices and keep the spotlight on the Democrat’s frayed energy policies.  When Reid attempted to reverse course yet again and bring the postal legislation back to the floor, Republicans resisted, and were joined by a handful of Senate Democrats who also are unhappy, for various reasons, with the shape of the Postal Service.

The bill that Reid wanted to bring to the floor (called a “manager’s amendment” of S. 1789) was largely the result of a deal negotiated with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would largely preserve current 1-3 day delivery standards and minimize the closure of rural post offices, as well as create a blue ribbon commission on a new postal business model.  These changes to the bill are actions that NAPS fully supports. 

But six Senate Democrats joined with most Senate Republicans in blocking action on the postal bill, which failed on a  51-46 cloture vote on Tuesday, nine votes short of the necessary 60 votes to begin debate (and the consideration of amendments).  Those six Democrats included Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV).  Majority Leader Reid also voted “no,” in a procedural move to permit him to try once again and “reconsider” cloture after the Senate returns in mid-April.  In the meantime, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA), the quartet championing S. 1789, will spend time over the Congressional recess attempting to work further revisions to the bill that win the necessary votes of their colleagues.

A Postal Health Plan: Silver Bullet or Wooden Nickel?

Meanwhile, the Postal Service continues to push for cost-savings in a far different way — through the creation of a health insurance plan for its employees and retirees outside of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).  The Postal Service contends that such a move would save as much as $7 billion a year and create higher-value, less expensive health care benefits.  Creating its own health plan, the Postal Service says, would eliminate the need for it to pay $5.5 billion a year in retiree health pre-funding payments, as well as return $42 billion it already has paid into the Retiree Health Benefit Fund, and additional deposits in FEHBP reserves.

Is a Postal Service-managed health care plan the silver bullet that will solve the Postal Service’s financial woes?  Or is it a wooden nickel that will result in greater problems and higher costs for its employees and retirees?  A Congressional hearing last week provided a mixed answer to that question.

Postmaster General Pat Donahoe, testifying before the House postal oversight subcommittee last Wednesday, contended that the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, despite all the accolades it receives for being a model of health care delivery, does not provide enough flexibility to the Postal Service to leverage its size.  With a half-million employees and another half-million retirees and dependents, the PMG believes the Postal Service could negotiate a better deal with an insurance carrier in the competitive health insurance market.  And he pointed to billions of dollars that the Service is losing by not ensuring that Medicare-eligible retirees more fully participate in the receipt of Medicare benefits.  The Postal Service also says that it would receive millions of dollars in Medicare prescription drug subsidies, ones already provided to private employers, if it could leave FEHBP and operate its own health plan.

Each of these arguments spawns counter-arguments.   Walton Francis, a health insurance expert, testified to the subcommittee last week that the FEHBP is the single most successful health insurance program operated by the federal government, providing wide choice to employees and retirees. The Postal Service’s departure from the FEHBP, Francis said, would destroy the widely-used health plans currently provided by the postal employee unions.  And the Postal Service itself would be hurt by the loss of over a half-billion dollars in savings in its employer premium payments.  Why?  Frances points out that younger, healthier non-postal employee participants at other agencies actually subsidize the Postal Service’s health care costs.  If the Postal Service left FEHBP, he warned, it would lose these savings and have to make up for them by reducing benefits or increasing premiums in any plan it provides to its employees and retirees.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest areas of savings under the Postal Service proposal would come through better integration of Medicare coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees.  This would involve requiring all Medicare-eligible retirees and dependents to fully utilize the Medicare benefits available to them, rather than using their FEHBP plan as the primary carrier.  But this would also boost total Medicare costs, and the Federal government’s tab for them.  That prompted committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) at the hearing last week to tell Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, “Let’s have no illusions, you’re just cost shifting.” “There’s no cost savings to the American people.”  The money will be paid out of one hand in order to save it in another hand.”

Will the Postal Service health care proposal go anywhere?  It’s possible that some version of it could find its way into the contracts currently being negotiated between the Postal Service and three of its employee unions.  And some smaller version of it could find its way into a comprehensive postal reform package, if the Congress reaches that point.  But the odds are small that the Postal Service will win Congressional approval to permit the Postal Service to leave FEHBP and administer its own private sector-like plan for its employees and retirees.
House-Passed Budget Measure Is Further Bad News for Feds

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a budget resolution that extends the federal pay freeze, downsizes the government workforce and increases the amount federal employees contribute to their pensions.  That would mean Federal Employees Retirement System employees, who now pay 0.8 percent of their paychecks toward their retirement, would instead contribute about 5.8 percent.

In a 228 to 191 vote that split along party lines, the House approved the Republican fiscal 2013 budget plan offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI).  The budget resolution is a non-binding document, but sets in motion further House efforts to legislate its aims.

The House-approved budget resolution calls for continuing the freeze on federal salary rates through 2015; cutting federal employment by 10 percent by hiring one replacement for every three employees who leave; and requiring employees to pay as much into the retirement fund as the government pays. That provision would require an increase on the employee side of as much as 6 percent of salary.  The budget plan also raises the prospect of other cuts, including ending a retirement supplement for most employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System who retire before age 62.  The provisions would result in about $368 billion in cuts to the federal workforce during the next decade. In addition, the Republican measure would relieve the Defense Department from significant budget cuts resulting from sequestration, which takes effect starting in 2013.

The Federal-Postal Coalition, which includes NAPS and other groups representing the interests of federal and postal employees, sent House lawmakers a letter earlier this week urging them to oppose Ryan’s proposal.

The measure likely will fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but proposals to reduce federal pay and benefits will remain alive for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, to extend certain transportation programs for three months, Congress has set aside several employee-related provisions that the Senate had attached to its version of a more comprehensive bill.  These provisions will remain on the table as a more permanent transportation bill gets decided upon.  One provision would allow federal workers, including postal supervisors, to phase into retirement by drawing a partial annuity while working part time and receiving a prorated salary. The other would boost, retroactive to January, the monthly tax free minimum amount that the federal government can reimburse employees for commuting via public transit.  The amount would return to $240 per month.

17 thoughts on “NAPS: Congress Heads Home Post Haste without Delivering on Postal

  1. Largest Postal Union Calls on Senate to Pass S. 1789 As Currently Drafted

    WASHINGTON, March 26, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — National Association of Letter Carriers President Details Union’s Concerns about Legislation in Letter to U.S. Senators
    Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), has formally called on the U.S. Senate to pass S. 1789 — the 21st Century Postal Service Act – because it is getting very late, it will provide long-term fixes. He said that while the measure “will provide resources to allow the Service to recover within a few more years, it will change the downward trajectory of this vital institution.”
    The NALC and APWU will join forces in a demonstration March, for Tuesday , April 3rd, 2012, the buses will meet you in the parking lots , located at 1580 lake Street, in Elmira, NY , call your National or local for directions, all expenses will be paid.

    In a letter sent today to each U.S. senator, Mr. Rolando stated, “S. 1789 appears to be based on the Postal Service’s Retirement Incentive strategy, which will alleviate the excessing of employees .
    Mr. Rolando said NALC has “no choice but to Support S. 1789.”
    Mr. Rolando noted that just last week, a USPS witness before the Postal Regulatory Commission acknowledged that a study ordered — but later stopped — by the Postal Service on its own plan for service reductions indicated that the “combined effects of all the service cuts under consideration, including the elimination of Saturday delivery (and 80,000 delivery-related jobs), would not be so severe if The Early Retirement Incentives were offered now.

    Other key points from Mr. Rolando’s letter about the Decent Retirement Incentives in S. 1789:
    It adequately addresses the single biggest cause of the Postal Service’s recent financial distress, the mandate imposed by Congress in 2006 that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health insurance benefits. That mandate — required of no other government agency or private business — has cost USPS $21 billion over the past five years. It is money that could have been used to offer the Early Retirement Incentives in April 2012, in a more lucrative way.

  2. You have hit the nail into Guffey’s, well he has no balls, whatever, in reference to all this effort by the Unions to fight the PMG, lost cause !, strike !, in private industry we had some violent strikes, but we had to, to survive, slashed tires, bent heads, etc, these pussy unions will get nowhere, we are dealing with the Third Reich, the Gestapo OIG and Inspectors, yes the tools of management, scum they are, this is a war!, and we the craft are losing, fighting back through Congress is a failure, Teamsters would sit down and take it?, no frigging way !, all this call your Senator is crap, and these same unions will try to stop any VERA, they want dues over your dead body, strike now, and if violence is needed, so ! be ! it !

  3. Subsdize the USPS and keep the robust mail service in existence. Deliver mail 6 days aweek make certain customers get bulk mail advertising GEICO insurance at a 15% discount. Open new neighborhood offices as fuel cost is increasing, The country need the USPS to insure that all receive bulk business advertising mail. Politicans should make effort to insure all treasury check are delivered to a physical mailbox and not paperless direct deposit. Politicans should make effort to use trees and stop the go paperless as is being advertised by businesses solicting go online and save trees. Politicns have no concern as to debt when come to an issue they can gain favor in securing votes regardless of the price.

  4. there will be no early retirements and no incentives. Do not worry we will be federalized next year after Obama re-election. Pmg will be retired before re-election. Do not waste you time with worries. Plant closings will be stopped a few very small offices may close, but that depends on the communities input.
    No lay offs, no early outs, no problems. Jobs4life. completely federal.

  5. NALC: April 12 Demonstrations to Save America’s Postal Service
    April 3, 2012 by postal
    Filed under: NALC, postal, postal reform 
    On April 12, the National Association of Letter Carriers will hold “Save America’s Postal Service” demonstrations outside of Senate offices across the country. They are designed to put pressure on each senator to support S. 1789.
    S. 1789 likely will be brought up in the Senate following the Easter recess, the week that follows the April 12 demonstrations. The timing and impact of these events will be critical in helping us to pass S. 1789 and save America’s Postal Service.
    If S. 1789 were to pass, the bill would help the Postal Service by:
    Saving six-day mail delivery.
    Saving door-to-door mail delivery.
    Fully addressing the Postal Service’s pre-funding requirement.
    Offering 25k and other Incentives for Early Retirements,which will alleviate the ongoing excessing due to Office closures.
    These events are meant to engage the public through the use of speeches, handouts and demonstrations to make our voices heard, we ask the PMG, “What is holding up the VERA’s?
    The Postal Service has a wide variety of supporters, many of whom may wish to participate in your “Save America’s Postal Service” demonstration, including small-business owners who use the mail to advertise, veterans groups, local elected officials, labor union members, faith leaders, and progressive allies who have concerns for the plight of working men and women, and offer these workers decent retirement Incentives in April , 2012.

  6. Politics at it best. Delay, ignore, and continue to increase debt. Play post office game to buy votes from pressure groups.

  7. It’s a real head scratcher picking between who’s the most incompetent: Congress or the management of the Postal Service. And of course the fucking House will not leave FERS employees alone, doing all they can to eventually make it impossible to retire and steal our annuities. Why on earth does anybody with the sense God gave a worm vote for a Republican?
    And tell me who in their right mind would trust the management of the Postal Service to handle their health insurance needs? They keep threatening to not be able to make payroll by August, they’re five months behind in starting retirement benefits and generally fuck up everything they put their filthy hands on.
    For my money, anybody stupid enough to opt for insurance through the Postal Service directly provided it is an option and not mandatory must be a manager themselves.
    We have to, as postal employees, keep up the pressure on Congress to pass a good reform package and kill that Ryan budget. Shit rolls downhill, and if people like Ryan get their way with federal employees, they’re coming after the civilians next, you can bet your ass.

  8. Funny, our Congressmen have no problem voting to continue a freeze on future wages for (all) Federal Employees like the usual .5 or 1.0% increases that occasionally slip by are a “windfall”, the same group of Thugs typically have no issue with granting themselves huge pay increases. With Representatives like this, who needs enemies ? Get rid of all of them and just elect “Lobbyists”!

  9. If our Senate can’t pass a budget that is required how can you expect them to pass any legislation on the difficult subject of Postal Reform???

  10. They’ve mentioned the idea of establishing a “Blue Ribbon Comittee” for a new postal business model… A great idea, but would be even better if they named it a Blue Ribbon “SUPER” comittee! We all know how well the last “SUPER COMITTEE ” went for our country’s budget!…oh well, at least elections are coming up, then we can get a new batch of greedy selfish leaders(?)

  11. Senate is just as bad, not only can they not pass postal reform they have not even pass a budget in several years. We have a sorry government period from pres all the way down

  12. We are screwed if we have to depend on either the Postal Service or our Congress to figure out what’s wrong and come up with solutions!!!
    On another note I hear President Guffey is refusing to allow any of our members to take any early out offered. He is refusing to sign off on it.

  13. Sounds like a lot of Game Playing!!!!!!! Our Congress is totally out of tune with the working man and the businesses that provide the jobs for the working man. How selfish to take their break and not do a thing for the Postal Service and then vote down to do anything when they get back. I don’t get it!!!!!!

  14. ‘Transformative power’
    PMG touts importance of innovation and technology
    In a keynote address to open the National Postal Forum today, PMG Pat Donahoe discussed the transformative power of technology and innovation in the mailing industry.
    Speaking at the nation’s largest annual gathering for the mailing industry, Donahoe described a technology and data-centric mailing industry poised to benefit from innovations to increase the value of mail for both senders and receivers.  
    Donahoe told legislators during a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy the comprehensive plan  USPS has developed will produce a reduction in annual costs of $22.5 billion by 2016. He said the plan provides a “clear path toward financial stability” for USPS, but these have to include the Early Retirement Incentives in April 2012.
    The PMG urged Congress to consider the comprehensive plan favorably. He said its adoption would allow USPS to meet its universal service obligations and its employees would continue providing reliable and affordable service to the public. “We believe it’s a responsible approach that’s fair to our customers and our employees especially being able to offer more of a retirement incentive in April 2012,” he said.
    The PMG discussed the four core business strategies of the Postal Service: strengthening the business to consumer channel; improving the customer experience; growing the package business; and continuing to become leaner, faster and smarter as an organization, after the April. 2012 Offerings of Early Retirement Incentives to Employees.
    “We have left nothing off of the table in terms of rethinking how we perform our core function of delivering,” said Donahoe. “The best way forward is to embrace the potential of change, and that will entail massive reduction by the April, 2012 Early Retirement Incentives.

  15. Aren’t these is one of the sorriest congress the United States has ever had! Everyone see’s the Postal service is sinkng fast with no other mail delivery system in place, yet they cannot come together on one bill proposal that up for vote! All the majority of these congressmen and senators do is come to work on a daily basis, debate minor issues and return back to their fabalous homes, doing nothing for the american people! The majority of them need voted us of office! American taxpayers nd citizens are you listening!

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