Some noteworthy news on the postal front: A bipartisan group of senators is unveiling compromise legislation tomorrow that—by one lawmaker’s description—is intended to pull the U.S. Postal Service back “from the brink of financial failure.’
The official release is set for an 11:30 a.m. news conference, featuring four top members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which could vote on the bill as early as next week.
According to various folks on and off Capitol Hill, one key provision would give the Postal Service some major relief on the “pre-payment” schedule for its retiree health care fund that is currently costing the battered mail carrier about $5.5 billion a year. If those proposed breaks are likely to make USPS leaders very happy, they’ll probably be less pleased by a separate stricture that would block them from ending most Saturday delivery for at least another two years. And even then, they would have to satisfy such requirements as showing that other cost-saving options have been exhausted.
The bill includes changes to the federal workers’ compensation system that would affect employees at other agencies; it would also allow the Postal Service to channel surplus Federal Employees Retirement System funds into incentives to encourage workers to retire.
Set to appear at tomorrow’s press conference are the committee’s chairman, Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine; and the chairman and top Republican for the subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service: Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., respectively.
The measure comes as USPS officials are preparing to release final fiscal 2011 financial results (and, no, they won’t be pretty) on Nov. 15. Of course, even if this new bill makes it through the full Senate, it will still have to be meshed with a radically different House counterpart, meaning that the Postal Service is likely to remain on the financial brink for some time to come.