The House of Representatives finally voted to approve H.R. 22, 388-32, more than eight months after it was introduced.
The bill allows the Postal Service to pay health benefits for its current retirees out of a trust fund earmarked for future retirees. As Rebecca noted earlier, postal managers describe H.R. 22 as a necessity given their $7 billion budget deficit this year. The Postal Service needed to make a $5.4 billion payment into the retiree trust fund by Sept. 30, but the agency doesn’t have enough cash to make the payment. Without H.R. 22, it will be forced to default on that payment.
The bill drew some criticism from Republican legislators earlier today, so it’s worth clarifying a few points. H.R. 22 is not a “bailout”; it doesn’t appropriate any money for the Postal Service. It simply reduces the amount the agency has to pay into the trust fund — by more than $3 billion this year — giving the Postal Service some relief from what is a rather exceptional pre-funding requirement. (No other federal agency is required to pre-fund health benefits for its retirees.)
H.R. 22 has been widely supported by postal management and postal labor unions. Its companion legislation in the Senate, S. 1507, is not so popular.