Floor Updates

Sessions, Collins, Lieberman, Warner,

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 23 2012

02:15 PM

Senator Sessions: (12:44 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "I regret to say there is a fundamental problem with this bill that we have to address, and I wish it weren't so but I'm afraid it is. The bill would increase federal deficit by $34 billion. This violates the deficit neutrality provisions for spending that we adopted as part of the Budget Control Act of last summer, just last summer. As a result, there are at least five budget points of order that as ranking Republican on the Budget committee, will be raising points of order at the appropriate time. This means it would take 60 votes in the United States Senate, 60. Our hundred members to say we don't want to agree and follow the law we passed last summer, that we promised the American people would make a difference and we'll just spend this money anyway because we think it has an important need. Under the Senate rules, no committee can bring a bill to the floor that spends even one penny more than already is going to be spent under the current law, or increase the deficit more than it would increase under current law. Current law is the budget control act of last summer, and it was passed, as we all recall, as part of a major debate over the debt ceiling, the raising of the debt ceiling so we continue to borrow money, borrowing at the rate of about 40 cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed. We knew that had to end, so some decisions were made and spending was constrained although I would contend not nearly enough. In other words, the spending and debt under the Postal bill violates the debt limit agreement reached just last summer ... By throwing money at it often, you keep it from reacting to the realities of the situations they're in. So I respect deeply the people who worked on this, but I do believe it's a crucial vote. Even if one supports every dollar of spending in the bill, colleagues do you support a violation of the Budget Control Act in such a dramatic fashion so soon after it was adopted? Vote to sustain the budget point of order. That's what I ask my colleagues to do. Let's stand up for fiscal responsibility. In effect, it would send the bill back to our committee and it would say to them look at it. If you can spend less, please do so. But if you feel you have to spend money on this postal fix, find out where it should be paid for. Propose how it should be paid for. And that would meet the requirements we made through each other just last summer. It would meet the requirements that we and the promises we made to the American people."

Senator Collins: (3:08 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Let me start by responding to the Ranking member of the Budget committee by saying that I could not agree with him more that it is absolutely unacceptable that we have not had a budget pass in the Senate for more than 1,000 days. That is totally unacceptable. It's one of the reasons that we are in such a financial crisis in this country. So, I completely agree with Senator Sessions that we should be doing a Budget Resolution on the Senate floor. And I wholeheartedly agree with his comments that it is absolutely irresponsible for us to be proceeding without a budget resolution. And as a member of the Appropriations committee, I would say to my colleagues that it makes it very difficult for us to carry out our work due to the cooperation of the chairman and ranking member of that committee. We are operating under allocations for each subcommittee. But it would be far, far preferable if there were a Budget Resolution that passed, and it should have passed last year, the year before. And it should be passing this year. So we're in complete agreement on that point. And I know that's been a great source of frustration for the Senator from Alabama, as the ranking member of the Budget committee Let me explain a few facts. First of all, there are no tax dollars being authorized by this reform bill. There is no transfer of taxpayer money to the Postal Service. What we have here is a very strange and unusual budget situation, and the score that CBO has is incredibly misleading because the Postal Service, oddly enough, is part of the unified budget of the United States, even though most of its accounts are off-budget. But it participates in federal employee retirement systems and the health benefits systems and the workers' compensation systems, where postal dollars that come from postal employees and from ratepayers, postal ratepayers, are commingled, if you will, with tax dollars that come from other federal agencies into the retirement system, the workers comp system and the health benefits system. And that creates this odd situation which makes it very difficult for CBO to score this bill correctly. Now, the Inspector General of the Postal Service put it far more bluntly. The Inspector General says in a February 22 report from this year called "Budget Enforcement Procedures and the Postal Service" The IG says, "the Postal Service's off-budget status exposes the Postal Service to, quote, an inappropriate and illogical application of the scoring process that threatens its ability to reform and heal its financial condition. Scoring and budget enforcement were created for a good purpose, but they are undermined when the scoring process assumes that unlikely or inappropriate inflows to the Treasury must occur.""

Senator Lieberman: (1:32 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "When the CBO estimate of the bill came out saying that it was going to cost more than we were saving, I was shocked. And as I read over it, part of it is because they're not simply considering the post office, the Postal Service budget, which we're out to save - that is, to cut a lot of money from it so that it can be saved - but they're - and as senator Collins said, the Postal Service is off budget, it doesn't spend taxpayers' money except for those two little matters of paying for ballots for military personnel and others overseas. And the i think the other was for blind people in this country. But the rest of it is all paid by the ratepayers. So - and as you go over one by one, as Senator Collins did, the elements of the "costsâ€? - and I put them with quotations around them - they're just not real. This is - this is form over substance. This is a kind of "Alice in Wonderland" accounting that doesn't relate to the reality of the Postal Service's budget or the federal budget. The so-called FERS repayment that's coming from the federal government is everyone agrees, including Senator Sessions, who stated his intention to make a budget point of order on our bill, on our postal rescue bill, that - that the Postal Service did overpay this amount of money, just as if a taxpayer had overpaid taxes. Well, that's if I overpaid my taxes, that's my money that I'm asking for back from the government. In this case, the Postal Service has overpaid to the federal pension - retiree pension fund and it's asking for its money back."

Senator Warner: (1:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the Warner amendment #2071, as modified (retirement reporting) to the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "So what are we going to do with this amendment and how does this affect trying to move the ball forward? My amendment will do three things. First, it requires OPM to report to congress, GAO and the public about the timeliness and accuracy of Postal Service claims, requiring OPM to compare the Postal Service with performance of other - all other federal agencies. So we need to figure out because we don't know at this point with that 52,000-claim backlog whether the backlog is because the agency that the employee worked for didn't get the information to OPM in a timely manner or whether OPM hasn't processed this. This amendment will require the Postal Service to assess how it's doing getting this information to OPM and compare that with performance of other federal agencies. This will allow us to see which federal agencies have the best and worst track records in submitting paperwork to OPM the snapshot we saw a little bit earlier this year at the hearing in February showed that a number of agencies had literally a 30% to 50% error rate in submitting their retirement paperwork to OPM, and with close to 100,000 potential new retirees, actually a much larger number but the effect of this bill may urge the voluntary retirement of 100,000 postal workers to retirement, OPM is going to get hit by a tsunami. Second, the report will also require OPM to provide a claims aging report. We know need to know how long retirement applications have been pending at OPM by the way, we don't have any of that information right now for the 52,000 cases that are currently pending backlog. No basic Aging report and third, the amendment will require OPM to at least move forward a little bit in modernizing one piece of their technology so that OPM can at least receive some electronic payroll data from the Postal Service system."

Senator Lieberman: (1:55 PM)
  • Thanked Senator Warner for his amendment.

Senator Collins: (1:57 PM)
  • Thanked Senator Warner for his amendment.