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Legislative Updates

House and Senate Approve Funding Deal Before Holiday Recess

Prior to departing for the holiday recess this week, the House and Senate agreed to two spending packages avoiding the December 20 deadline averting the third shutdown in as many years. The two packages come to a total of $1.4 trillion, the first an eight-bill package of domestic spending totaling $555 billion, and the second was a four-bill national security funding package of $860 billion.

The final package included $1.375 billion for a border wall, $425 million for election security efforts, a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, an extension of over 30 tax breaks and changes the age to purchase tobacco to 21 from 18 in all 50 states. The bill also eliminates excise taxes on medical devices, a change long-sought after by the health care industry and allows generic drug makers to seek samples of brand name drugs to ease their production to market.

For the labor community, the deal included a permanent repeal of taxes on high-cost plans known as the “Cadillac tax” which were instituted under the Affordable Care Act, a long-sought after fix to shore up funds for the United Mine Workers of America pension plan that was set to be gutted without Congressional action. In addition, the deal included a 3.1 percent pay increase for most federal workers. Unfortunately, that provision excluded several agencies and does not apply to the Postal Service as we bargain over pay.

As it relates to letter carriers, NALC’s long-standing six-day language was once again preserved. The continued inclusion of this language since 1983 in final appropriations packages speaks to the good work done by letter carriers these past few years in engaging legislators on both sides of the aisle to reject service and delivery cuts.

As lawmakers were working to finalize this funding deal, a serious effort to include a repeal of the mandate to prefund retiree health benefits (USPS Fairness Act, H.R. 2382) was nearly agreed to. Unfortunately, the provision was ultimately blocked by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations Ranking Member Mark Meadows, who announced his retirement at the end of this Congress this week.

“It’s unfortunate that Congress failed to take the perfect opportunity to provide some stability to the Postal Service,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando. “It is now up to letter carriers to see this important legislation to the finish line and letter carriers should be ready to engage their House members on H.R. 2382 when the bill comes to the floor for a vote next early next year and encourage their members of Congress to seek every opportunity to secure this important fix.”

When lawmakers return to Washington in January, they will begin yet another appropriations cycle for fiscal year 2021, which will begin with the White House sending its budget proposal and requests to Congress early in the year. Typically, the administration’s request is dead on arrival, but letter carriers know that the proposals contained within always creep into the conversation.

In past years, the such priorities included “reforming the U.S. Postal Service” via vaguely defined cuts and proposals such as reducing the frequency of delivery (presumably eliminating Saturday delivery), scaling back door delivery, and giving USPS the authority to raise rates. The White House has also called for increases to FERS contributions, basing annuities on a high-5, eliminating the annuity supplement, slashing COLAs, ending defined FERS benefits for new federal employees, reducing the TSP G Fund interest rate, cuts to the Department of Labor, instituting union monitoring, and more.

Such requests have not found their way into lawmakers’ appropriations packages in past years and it is encouraging that bipartisan agreement in Congress was reached to avoid yet another painful government shutdown.

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