WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) announced they have joined 25 other senators in calling for significant improvements in a bill to modernize the U.S. Postal Service.
In a letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Subcommittee on Federal financial Management, Government Information and International Security, the senators suggested specific measures to preserve first-class and Saturday mail delivery, stop wholesale closings of rural post offices and mail processing centers, and spare many of the 220,000 jobs that the Postal Service wants to cut.
“The delivery of the mail is a fundamental government service, and I am committed to ensuring that postal reform maintains the jobs and facilities that are needed to carry out the postal services’ mission of timely, efficient delivery of the mail,” said Senator Cardin. “I will not support reform efforts that will result in an erosion of services and a decline in the trust that the American people have in the U.S. Postal Service.”
“The Postal Service is the fabric of our neighborhoods and rural communities,” Senator Mikulski said. “Every day our postal workers are working hard for America – binding the nation together through communication. I will continue to fight on behalf of postal worker jobs by working with my colleagues to make sure we have a solution that leaves the Postal Service in a stable financial condition without harming its employees or its customers.”
The senators wrote that the Postal Service should be prohibited from slowing down first-class mail delivery, which would result if Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe carries out a plan to shutter 252 mail processing centers. The shutdowns would leave the Postal Service with fewer than half of the 508 mail sorting facilities that are in operation today.
“If USPS becomes inconvenient and slow, many of its most loyal customers – from home delivery medication companies to newspaper publishers – will turn to private mailing options. Once those customers leave, they are most likely not coming back, and the Postal Service’s financial woes will continue to spiral,” the letter said.
The letter writers also said the Senate bill should prevent the closure of many rural post offices that are the “heart and soul” of their communities, many of them serving areas that lack Internet and cell phone service.
They want stronger language in the bill to maintain six-day mail delivery. The Postal Service should have to hold off for at least four years before it could take steps to end Saturday deliveries, and then only under very limited circumstances.
The senators also said the Postal Service should be allowed to recover more than $10 billion in overpayments in a pension fund and no longer be forced to put $5.5 billion a year into a retiree health care account that is already flush with funds.
Under a key proposal, the senators called for a Blue-Ribbon Entrepreneurial Commission to develop a new business model for the Postal Service. The committee bill would let the Postal Service offer some new services like issuing state hunting and fishing licenses, for example. The Senate bill should go farther, Sanders and the others said, by implementing innovative ideas for new services recommended by the commission of entrepreneurs, innovators, postmasters, postal workers and others.
In addition to Senators Mikulski, Cardin and the letter was signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mike Bennet (D-Colo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Casey Jr., (D-Pa.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tim Johnson (D-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
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