Senators ask USPS to delay post office closings

Wednesday - 5/2/2012, 11:01am EDT

The four sponsors of postal reform legislation in the Senate are asking the Postal Service to delay closing post offices and mail processing facilities until the new law is in place.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins, (R-Maine), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) speak about their postal reform legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has announced a plan to close up to 252 mail processing centers and 3,700 post offices starting May 15 as part of efforts to save the mail agency $6.5 billion a year.

The Senate-passed bill (S.1789) would save about half of the processing centers from closure and place a one-year moratorium on closing rural post offices. Post offices located more than 10 miles from the next closest mail facility would generally be protected from closure, under the legislation.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins. (R-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the authors of the bill, wrote a letter to Donahoe saying any closures before the enactment of legislation would be "counterproductive."

"The legislation that is ultimately enacted by Congress could bar some of the planned closures or make many of them financially unnecessary," the senators wrote in the letter dated April 30.

A USPS spokesman said the agency did not have a comment at this time.

The Senate bill, passed April 25, refunds the Postal Service overpayments it made to its federal retirement system, restructures how the agency prepays for retirees' health benefits and allows USPS to offer buyouts to about 100,000 retirement-eligible employees. The bill also gives the Postal Service authority to negotiate with its unions about moving employees out of the federal health insurance program into its own program.

The House has not yet passed a bill, and the four senators have also sent letters to House leaders urging them to work swiftly on postal reform legislation.

The House bill (H.R.2309) would allow USPS to use nearly $11 billion in surplus retirement contributions and increase employees' contributions for health and life insurance premiums.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the bill's sponsor, said the senators' request to delay postal closings was "inappropriate."

"Rather than letting an objective and independent process continue on, senators would inject parochial politics into the Postmaster General's decision-making," Issa said in an emailed statement to Federal News Radio.

A spokesman for Issa said no vote was scheduled yet on the House's version of the postal bill.

Federal News Radio's Emily Kopp and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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