Lawmakers 'committed' to postal reform in new Congress

Thursday - 1/3/2013, 6:06pm EST

While the last Congress failed to pass comprehensive legislation to shore up the U.S. Postal Service, top lawmakers from both parties say they are committed to working together to patch up the ailing agency in the new Congress.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a joint statement Thursday, citing an "unwavering" commitment to restoring USPS to solvency.

"Although the 112th Congress did not come to a consensus around a package of reforms that can update the Postal Service's network and business model to reflect the reality that it faces today, we remain committed to working with our colleagues in both the House and the Senate to reform the Postal Service so it can survive and thrive in the 21st century," the statement read.

Carper and Issa noted the different approaches taken by the House and Senate last year.

The Senate bill, approved by the full chamber last spring, would have refunded to USPS overpayments made to the federal pension fund, created a separate health-insurance program for postal employees and allowed the agency to offer buyouts to 100,000 retirement-eligible employees.

The House bill, which never left committee, would have deferred near-term payments on retiree health care benefits, allowed the agency to move to a five-day delivery week and created an independent board to recommend facility closures.

"While our approaches have differed in the past, we made significant progress in narrowing our differences in recent months," Carper and Issa's statement read.

In fact, Issa had hoped to move postal legislation during the lame-duck session of Congress, but amid the wrangling over the fiscal-cliff, that never materialized.

Donahoe: USPS will accelerate planned cost-savings

Postmaster Patrick Donahoe also renewed his call Thursday for congressional action, citing the "unsustainable financial path," the agency faces.

"We encourage the new 113th Congress to make postal reform an urgent priority, and to work steadily toward the quick passage of reform legislation," Donahoe said in a statement. "We will continue to work with leaders of our House and Senate oversight committees and all members of Congress to help make this happen."

In the meantime, Donahoe said the USPS has planned to "accelerate" some of the cost-cutting measures it has already implemented.

"We are currently losing $25 million per day, we have defaulted on $11.1 billion in Treasury payments and exhausted our borrowing authority," he said. "The Postal Service should not have to do business this way, which has undermined the confidence of our customer base and the $800 billion mailing industry we serve."

Those savings initiatives include consolidating mail-processing facilities and reducing hours at post offices nationwide.

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