It was late April when the Senate approved a bipartisan Postal Reform bill, designed to help the Postal Service rein in losses that were starting to go over $1 billion each month. The focus then shifted to the House of Representatives.
Republicans said they were ready to offer a much different bill than what had been approved in the Senate, which even the Postal Service said didn’t give them enough power to attack what has become a veritable river of red ink.
Last month, GOP staffers assured reporters like me that the issue would be on the House floor in July.
But as the weeks went by, the postal bill never showed up on the House schedule.
And now, three months after Senate action, with the Postal Service on the verge of defaulting on a payment for future retiree health benefits, lawmakers in the Congress are ready to leave town on a five week break without acting on legislation to stem further operating losses.
Right now, the Postal Service is losing $1 billion each month.
Both parties say those losses must be stopped – presumably before Uncle Sam has to step in with some kind of bailout.
But Congress is unable to act.
“Over the past few weeks, one thing has become abundantly clear: it’s well past time for House Leaders to follow through on past assurances to hold a vote on a postal reform bill,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), who helped push a reform bill through the Senate.
While action on reform remains on hold, the Postal Service is set to default on a $5.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury that goes to fund future retiree health benefits.
The Postal Service is supposed to pay the Treasury another $5.6 billion at the end of September as well – but officials have made clear that is not going to happen either.
At a time when the Postal Service is looking to Congress to allow for major changes – like the end of Saturday mail deliver and more – nothing is happening legislatively.
As Congress gets ready to leave town until mid-September, the red ink continues to mount.
Not the only bill on hold
Certainly, the Postal Reform legislation isn’t the only thing on the Congressional to-do list that won’t be finished by the time lawmakers leave town later this week.
The Senate has not approved any of the 12 spending bills for the next fiscal year, while the House has acted on seven of the dozen budget measures.
Usually by this time of year, the Senate will have approved a major defense policy bill, but this year the Defense Authorization measure still has not seen the Senate floor.
And then both parties will point the finger of blame at the other for not acting on bills approved by one party or the other – House GOP leaders say they’ve sent over 30 jobs bills to the Senate, while Senate leaders say they’ve approved a variety of bills that have gone nowhere in the House.