Members of the Senate are showing bipartisan interest in changing U.S. Postal Service benefits programs as they try to shore up Postal Service finances.
Earlier this week, supporters of S. 1789, a Postal Service change bill introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Conn.), rounded up 74 votes for a “motion for cloture” — an agreement to limit debate on the bill and let it get an up or down vote on the Senate floor.
Senate leaders have now “vitiated” the cloture motion agreement and scheduled debate on S. 1789 amendments for Tuesday.
S. 1789 supporters say quick action is needed because the Postal Service has a $9.2 billion deficit and, in theory, might be in such dire straits by August that it would have to shut down if it were an ordinary private company.
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Postal Service officials say the agency is facing serious problems partly because of customers’ shift to the Internet, partly because it is carrying large and mounting retiree pension and health benefits obligations, and partly because of a federal law that requires the Postal Service to reserve for retiree health benefits.
S. 1789 would let the Postal Service use some of the payments it has made to the Federal Employees Retirement System to pay for early retirement programs and other programs aimed at reducing the size of the Postal Service workforce.
The bill also could let the Postal Service work with unions and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to get postal workers out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and put them in a new, leaner health benefits program.
Policymakers interested in health reform often have pointed to the FEHBP as an example of what a successfully reformed U.S. health care system could be like, but Postal Service officials argue that the FEHBP is richer and more expensive than it ought to be.