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Committee mark-up of revised S. 1486 (Round 1)

On Jan. 29, the Senate committee with Postal Service oversight, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, spent nearly three hours in a mark-up meeting to debate a handful of proposed amendments to S. 1486.

After that first session stalled, committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) announced that the mark-up would resume on Thursday, Feb. 6.

“Unfortunately, none of the proposed amendments to S. 1486 will fix the fundamental flaws with the bill,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “and at least one amendment—on rate-setting—would make the bill worse.”

As written, S. 1486 would facilitate the end of door delivery and the elimination of Saturday delivery, therefore destroying tens of thousands of letter carrier jobs. It also would endanger all postal jobs by slowing service and driving business away from the Postal Service.

“I am disappointed that the committee will seek to advance this flawed legislation,” Rolando said. “We will continue to fight for the kind of reform that will strengthen the Postal Service without slashing service or attacking hard-working postal employees.”

One of the first amendments considered after the first mark-up meeting came to order on Jan. 29, from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), called for an immediate end to six-day delivery. It was easily defeated on a voice vote.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed an amendment calling on the Postal Service to declare bankruptcy and reorganize. In the senator’s vision of reorganization, collective-bargaining agreements between USPS and its employee unions would be renegotiated, while existing no-layoff protections and the ability to bargain over wages would be banned. The committee voted down the Paul amendment 11 to 4.

An amendment offered by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) called for the removal of the bill’s unfair provisions regarding injured workers. As written, S. 1486 imposes cruel and discriminatory reforms to the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) that would leave injured federal workers with the worst long-term injuries vulnerable to impoverishment when they reach Social Security retirement age. This FECA language was originally proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) under last Congress’ postal bill, S. 1789. Collins no longer serves on the oversight committee, but the language was still carried over into S. 1486.

Tester’s amendment failed, and the FECA reform language was retained. However, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the committee's ranking member, admitted that the language was reflective of the last Congress’ priorities, and he said that even if it made it into the final bill, he believed it would be removed during House-Senate conference committee negotiations. Tester disagreed, saying that he was hearing that the House would likely follow the Senate’s lead on the matter and leave the language in the bill, untouched.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) raised some concerns over the new bill’s call to transfer rate-setting authority from the Postal Regulatory Commission the Postal Board of Governors, effectively giving complete rate-setting ability to the Postal Service with greatly reduced oversight. She also raised concerns about a revised price index system.

Following a great deal of back-and-forth discussion on the matter, Baldwin’s concerns were noted and her amendment was held over for future consideration.