This was supposed to be the week Congress finally got down to the business of fixing the U.S. Postal Service. It didn’t happen.
A Democratic attempt to tie Republicans to big oil companies, lingering issues with federal highway funding and the start of the annual budget process tied up most of the week, upending plans to begin debate in the Senate over a bipartisan plan to overhaul how USPS manages and delivers the mail.
There will be roughly one month left when the House and Senate return from their two-week Easter and Passover recess to complete postal reform before the end of a moratorium on closing up to 223 processing centers and thousands of post offices. At the request of lawmakers, USPS agreed to wait until May 15 to begin the closings process, which is expected to start in late May, be suspended in late August for the election and holiday-mailing season and then resume again next January.
The sites set to close employ thousands of people, and Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), among others, are especially concerned with the fates of processing facilities in their states, because many workers may lose jobs or be assigned to neighboring states.
As the moratorium date nears, Senate aides said that changes made to the leading Senate proposal in recent days should give the bill enough support from senators of both parties, but that they expect a rigorous debate, sprinkled with “not in my back yard” sentiments and attempts to amend the bill by providing more safeguards for rural post offices.
The House also advanced its version of postal reform this week, when the Rules Committee tweaked parts of the bill that outline plans for a financial control board that would be established if USPS defaulted on its debts. But House aides have not yet indicated when a full vote on the measure may occur.
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