Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Back from recess, Congress gets to work

Members of Congress have returned to Capitol Hill following the August recess and a June and July marked with little in the way of progress on major legislation, including funding the government beyond this month and repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, not to mention one of NALC’s top priorities: postal reform.

They return to a changed and even more packed schedule, with their main priority being an emergency Hurricane Harvey relief package, followed by raising the debt ceiling and approving the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY2018) budget. Fortunately, the House of Representatives got straight to work and approved an initial $7.85 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief (H.Res. 502) on a 419-3 vote. The bill now proceeds to the Senate to be considered.

Following conversations between President Donald Trump and congressional Republican and Democratic leaders, it is expected that when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) brings the Harvey relief bill to the Senate floor, he will add to it provisions to raise the debt ceiling and to extend government funding, via a continuing resolution, through Dec. 15.

The measure would then be sent back to the House, where it might see opposition from the conservative House Freedom Caucus. When the caucus met on Tuesday evening, its chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), said that there was “overwhelming” opposition to attaching a debt provision. It is unlikely, however, that the measure will be blocked; it's more likely instead that it will proceed to the president and be signed into law.

A continuing resolution will fund the government through mid-December, allowing disagreements on major legislation, such as the FY2018 budget, to be hashed out between now and then. However, letter carriers know that when spending deals are being made, spending cuts are likely to be on the table. Here are a few provisions that are being considered:

  • Raising federal employees’ pension contributions by up to 6.45 percent of pay over the next six years, costing active postal employees up to $3,600 per year.
  • Eliminating cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for current and future retirees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
  • Reducing COLAs for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuitants by one-half of 1 percent (that is, 0.5 percent) each year.
  • Reducing CSRS and FERS pension benefits for new retirees by basing annuities on employees’ highest average pay over five years (high-5) instead of over three years (high-3).
  • Eliminating the annuity supplement that covers the gap for employees who retire under FERS before they qualify for Social Security benefits at age 62.
  • Slashing the rate of interest paid on assets invested in the Thrift Savings Plan Government Securities Fund (G Fund), costing active and retired postal employees $32 billion over 10 years.
  • $46 billion in vaguely defined cuts and revenue changes to the Postal Service, most likely through further cuts to service standards, reducing the frequency of delivery (eliminating Saturday delivery), and scaling back door delivery.
  • Making the financially independent U.S. Postal Service part of the federal budget—moving it from an “off-budget” status to an “on-budget” status—and potentially opening the agency to across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) and service disruptions should the federal government shut down during budget conflicts.

Over the course of the August recess, letter carriers across the country engaged with their House and Senate representative through phone calls, town hall meetings, e-activism, as well as at local events and even through direct meetings with lawmakers and their staffers— all to make known our opposition so such spending cuts.

We can’t stop now. We need to continue our work and be the difference in upcoming floor votes; otherwise, we risk seeing deals get pushed through that could be detrimental to letter carriers and our families.

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