WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday approved the most sweeping overhaul of the postal service in nearly two decades, in an effort to address the beleaguered agency’s financial problems and counter the delays in the postal pandemic that became a flashpoint in the 2020 election. .
The agency has been teetering on the brink of insolvency for years as repeated attempts to overhaul its structure and finances have stalled in Congress. In 2020, a slowdown in mail delivery and a series of operational changes ahead of the election, with a record number of postal votes cast due to the pandemic, led to intense surveillance and aided a renewed effort to tackle the agency’s problems .
The Chamber approved the measure 342 to 92.
An accompanying bill in the evenly divided Senate is backed by two parties, including more than a dozen Republican co-sponsors, indicating there is enough support for the measure to pass through that chamber and become law.
“Given the significant, bipartisan support for the same bill in the Senate, I expect to be able to vote quickly on these critical reforms that will help ensure the long-term success of the Postal Service,” said Michigan Democrat and champion Senator Gary Peters. of the accompanying account, in a statement.
The Biden administration also expressed its support for the move in a statement Monday, saying it “supports efforts to strengthen the United States Postal Service, including by providing postal workers with the dignity, fair pay and employer-provided benefits they deserve.” they have earned.”
Despite being a popular mainstay of American life, the Postal Service regularly fails to turn a profit, with 2020 marking the 14th straight year it has racked up a net annual loss. Revenue comes primarily from the sale of stamps and other products, and without congressional action, lawmakers warned the agency would run out of money by 2024.
At a meeting with the Postal Service’s board of directors on Tuesday, Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, called the bill “a long-awaited legislation,” according to a transcript of the meeting. He praised lawmakers involved in the measure and expressed optimism that the Senate would soon pass the bill, which he described as “legislation vital to the United States Postal Service and the American people.”
To address the financial strain on the agency, the bill requires retired employees to enroll in Medicare when they qualify and removes a mandate, first imposed by a 2006 law, that the agency should reduce its future health care costs by decades. years in advance. The Postal Service estimates that these two changes will save the agency about $50 billion in a decade, according to a fact sheet from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, whose leaders led the drafting of the legislation. The commission said it would be the agency’s most significant overhaul in nearly two decades.
The measure also requires the agency to publish delivery data that customers can search for using a street address, zip code or PO box, and that the agency maintains a delivery standard of at least six days a week. A 10-year strategic plan released in March by the Postal Service proposing to shorten hours and extend delivery times immediately drew backlash from Democrats.
In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Democrats also spar with Mr. DeJoy, a Trump megadonor, over a series of cost-cutting measures that eliminated carrier overtime, shortened post office hours and removed mailboxes. He decided to suspend those changes until after the 2020 election after criticism that they could curtail mail efforts during the pandemic.
The bill passed Tuesday would also expand special rates for local newspaper distribution and would also require regular reports to Congress on the agency’s financial condition.
The legislation was led by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat and chairman of the oversight committee, and the top Republican, Representative James R. Comer of Kentucky.
“It’s an American value – I wanted to do everything I could to preserve it,” Ms Maloney said in an interview. “It’s a problem that had to be solved.”
In comments on the floor of the houseMr. Comer noted that the legislation is expected to save federal dollars with its reforms, adding that “this targeted bill addresses the immediate needs of the postal service to help it succeed in the 21st century.”
Lawmakers gathered a series of letters of support from companies and outside groups to illustrate widespread support for the legislation, including from Hallmark Cards and the Greeting Card Association.
Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said the legislation “will ensure that the agency can continue to provide reliable service to the American people and serve as a prime provider of supplies and logistics for years to come.”