Floor Updates

McCain, Lieberman, Collins (The Senate Stands in Recess)

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 24 2012

01:04 PM

Senator McCain: (12:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "The services announcement that it lost $5.1 billion in the most recent fiscal year was billed as good years. That's how dire the situation is. The fact that they only lost $5.1 billion. The Collins-Lieberman bill transfers $7 billion from the federal employee retirement system to the USPS to be used for offering buyouts to its workers and paying down debts can stave off collapse for a short time at best. Nor do the other measures in the bill offer much hope. The bill extends the payment schedule for the Postal Service to prefund its employee retirement benefits from 10 to 40 years. Yes, the funding requirement is onerous, but if the USPS cannot afford to pay for these benefits now, what makes it likely they will be able to pay later when mail volumes most likely have plummeted further? The bill also requires two more years of studies to determine whether a switch to five-day delivery would be viable. These studies would be performed by a regulatory body that has already completed a laborious inquiry into the subject of process that required almost a year. The Washington Post goes on to say this seems a pointless delay, especially given that a majority of Americans support the switch to five-day delivery. Finally, they go on to say there is an alternative, a bill proposed by represented Darrell Issa that would create a supervisory body to oversee the Postal Service finances and if necessary negotiate new labor contracts. The bill is not perfect but offers a serious solution that does not leave taxpayers on the hook. So we now have a legislation before us that makes it harder if not impossible for the Postal Service to close post offices and mail processing plants by placing new regulations and limitations on processes for closing or consolidating mail processing facilities, a move in the wrong direction. It puts in place significant and absolutely unprecedented new process steps and procedural hurdles designed to restrict USPS's ability to manage its mail processing network. Additionally, the requirement to redo completed but not implemented mail processing consolidation studies will ultimately prevent any consolidations from occurring this calendar year The Postal Service has a massive retail network of more than 32,000 post offices, branches and stations. It has remained largely unchanged despite the declining mail volume and population shifts. The Postal Service has more full-time retail facilities in the United States of America than Starbucks, McDonald's, UPS and FedEx combined, and according to the chief government accountability office, approximately 80% of these retail facilities do not generate sufficient revenue to cover their costs. That's what this debate is all about, and I hope that my colleagues understand, we are looking at basically a dying part of America's economy because of technological advances, and we basically in this legislation are not recognizing that problem. When 80% of their facilities don't generate sufficient revenue to cover their costs, then any business in the world, in the United States of America, would right size that business to accommodate for changed positions. This bill does not do that. It continues to put up political roadblocks that prevent tough but essential closings and consolidations."

Senator Lieberman: (12:50 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I want to respond to the statement my friend from Arizona made. Very briefly, a couple of big points, the first is that Senator McCain I think has declared the Postal Service of the United States dead much too prematurely Today every day the Postal Service delivers 563 million pieces of mail, every day. There are businesses and individuals all over our country that depend on the mail. The estimate is that there are approximately eight million jobs in our country, most of them of course, almost all of them in the private sector, that depend in one way or another on the functioning of the U.S. Postal Service. So it's not fair, it's not realistic to speak as if the Postal Service is dead and gone and come to essentially bury it with the McCain substitute. I cannot resist saying that Senator Collins and I come not to bury the U.S. Postal Service but to change it but to keep it alive and well forever really because it's that important to our country. Secondly, Senator McCain speaks as if the substitute legislation, 1789, that we're proposing, bipartisan legislation, does nothing, that it's a status quo piece of legislation. It's not even a band-aid on the problem. We all know, we've talked about it incessantly since we went on this bill that the Postal Service is in financial difficulty. Incidentally, I want to say, there's not a dime of taxpayer money in the Postal Service. Ever since the Postal Service reforms occurred, it's totally supported by ratepayers, basically people who buy the services of the Postal Service with very two small exceptions which are small, one to pay for overseas ballots for members of the military so they can vote and another, a special program to facilitate the use of the mail by blind Americans. But it's got a problem. $13 billion lost over the last two years. This proposal of ours it's not a status quo proposal. It makes significant changes. There are going to be about 100,000 fewer people working for the Postal Service as a result of this bill being passed. There will be mail processing facilities that close. There will be post offices that will be closed and/or consolidated. There will be new sources of revenue for the Postal Service. Bottom line, the U.S. Postal Service itself estimates that our legislation if enacted as it is now will, as it's phased in over the next three to four years, by 2016 will save the Postal Service $19 billion a year. This isn't a band-aid. This is a real reform. A real transformation of the Postal Service to keep it alive. $19 billion. And let me put it another way."

Senator Collins: (12:56 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I want to shine a spotlight on a provision of Senator McCain's substitute that has not yet been discussed that actually raises constitutional issues. Now, all of us believe that the labor force of the Postal Service is too large, and, unfortunately, will have to be reduced, and we do that through a system of buyouts and retirement incentives, through a compassionate means, very similar to the way that a large corporation would handle the downsizing of its employees. But Senator McCain's alternative takes a very different approach. It would have this new control board that would be created to impose on the Postal Service an obligation to renegotiate existing contracts to get rid of the no layoff provision. I will say that I was very are surprised when the Postmaster General signed the kinds of contracts that did he this spring, but the fact is that senator campaign's amendment, section 304, which amends section 1206 of existing law, requires existing contracts to be renegotiated. That creates constitutional questions. The potential constitutional issue derives from the contracts clause of article 1, which prohibits states from passing laws impairing the obligation of contracts. Well, of course this provision does not apply to the federal government, the congressional research service has explained in a memorandum to me on this topic in July of 2011 that the due process clause of the fifth amendment has been held to provide some measure of protection against the federal government impairing its own contracts There is also a Supreme Court case, Lynch versus the United States, that makes clear that the due process clause prohibits the federal government from annulling its contracts and the United States is as much bound by its contracts as are private individuals ... Bottom line, I'm concerned if the Postal Service is forced by the McCain substitute to reopen and current collective bargaining agreements, that the courts would find the Postal Service in breach of those agreements and force it to pay damages and also that it would be found to be unconstitutional. The approach that we have taken does not raise those continual concerns. It does not raise those constitutional concerns. It does not have Congress stepping in to abrogate contracts, which is a very serious and potentially unconstitutional step for us to take. Finally, I would say I would agree with everything my Chairman has said. Senator McCain's amendment does not address the true problems of the Postal Service. Instead, it assumes that the Postal Service is obsolete, that they cannot be saved and that we should just preside over its demise. I reject that approach."