Congress to extend deadline for Postal Service debt

Tuesday - 9/27/2011, 7:25pm EDT

Congress is cutting the Postal Service a short-term break on some of its bills.

The continuing resolution passed Monday by the Senate included a measure to give the Postal Service until Nov. 18 to pay a $5.5 billion debt to the Treasury. The House is expected to approve the legislation Monday.

"The continuing resolution approved by the Senate last night gives Congress and the administration some much needed breathing room to continue to work together to come up with a comprehensive set of reforms that will address the Postal Service's short and long-term financial challenges and ensure that this critical American institution will be able to serve the American people for years to come," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) in a written statement.

The Postal Service is expected to post record losses when the fiscal year ends Friday. That is also the due date for its annual $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health care benefits.

Under law, the agency must fully fund its benefits in advance. But the Postal Service has said that it would default on this year's bill.

Postal officials warn that they will not be able to make a November deadline, either. They expect to have just one week's worth of cash left by the end of October. Congress is considering several proposals to help the Postal Service rebound. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to mark up Republican legislation in October that would authorize a control board to seize Postal Service finances if the agency is more than 30 days late in paying its debt.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee also is considering legislation but has not scheduled a markup. Carper has asked the Government Accountability Office to examine the Postal Service's claim that it has overpaid between $50 billion-and-$75 billion to the Civil Service Retiree System.

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