Floor Updates

McCain, Brown-MA, Lieberman, Collins

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 17 2012

04:41 PM

Senator McCain: (3:41 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "Let's find a graceful exit and at the same time preserve those functions of the Postal Service that will be around for a long time. And there are functioning that could stay around for a long time. But in a dramatically changed world. We now have instant communications. We have instant news cycles. And we have a proliferation, thank god, of information and knowledge unknown in previous years, or in history; we have today. And there are up sides and there are down sides. The Postal Service delivering letters does not play any role in the future of information being shared and made available to citizens all over the world. First-class mail - first-class mail makes up more than half of postal revenues. It's down more than 25% since 2001. In the last 11 years, it's down 25%. And I promise you that will accelerate. It continues on a downward spiral with no sign of recovery. This combined with unsustainable 80% labor costs and labor contracts that contain no layoff clauses points to the hard reality that the Postal Service is broken. By the way, that is also the conclusions of the Government Accountability Office which just recently issued a report that, entitled "Challenges Related to Restructuring the Postal Service's Retail Network." In 2011, the American Postal Workers Union and USPS management negotiated a four-year agreement that limits transferring of employees of an installation or craft to no more than 50 miles away. How? How in the world do you negotiate an agreement that you won't transfer anybody farther than 50 miles away? If USPS management cannot place employees within 50 miles the parties are to jointly determine which steps may be taken which includes putting postal employees on stand-by, which occurs which he workers are idled but paid their full salary due to reassignments and reorganization efforts. I am not making that up. If you are a Postal Service worker and you are, want to be reassigned more than 50 years, you cannot do it, and if you can't do it, you put employees on, quote, stand-by, and they are idled but paid their full salary due to reassignments and reorganization efforts. My friends, it helps us understand why 80% of their costs are in personnel costs It's time that we stop this incredible hemorrhaging of money, including, according to the Postal Service itself, by 2020 they're expecting to face up to a $238 billion shortfall. $238 billion shortfall in just the next eight years. $238 billion. The Postal Service has reached its borrowing limit of $15 billion, and even with dramatic cost savings of $12 billion in workforce reduction of 110,000 postal employees none of the past four years - in the past four years, the Postal Service is still losing money. It said it could lose as much as $18 billion annually by 2015 if not given the necessary flexibility it needs to cut costs and transform."

Senator Brown-MA: (4:03 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "Any legitimate reform of the Postal Service needs to recognize that we need to cut costs and we need to streamline an organization that is simply too big, especially in light of the future mail volumes and the potential decreasing of the future mail volumes. Our bill recognizes this necessity, but where it differs from the Senator from Arizona's approach is in our recognition of the full enact that major service changes will have on postal customers and future revenues. The Saturday delivery service of the Post Office is one of the strongest benefits that it has. I mean, when you're competing out with the other entities that are delivering mail or delivering packages and the like, that is the leg up that the Postal Service has and we want to deliver that I just want to address two other things. It's not the taxpayers that are paying this money. It's the ratepayers that have already paid into the system and has in fact overpaid into - into the Postal Service and some of their retirement issues that they - retirement program that we have. We're merely giving them that money back to allow them to get their fiscal and financial house in order, in order to offer some buyouts to get these 100,000 people retired so we can reduce the cost of the Postal Service. And once we make these changes, the Senator from Arizona also referenced that it's going to take a two-year study. No, it's not a two-year study to see if we're going to cut down Saturday service. They want to just cut it right off. If we do all of these other changes, the consideration that we did in a joint and bipartisan manner was to determine whether, in fact, hey, if we have done these, do we still need to cut the Saturday service? Which, by the way, is the benefit that the Postal Service has over everybody else. So are we going to contribute to that downward spiral or are we going to actually work together and give them a little bit of flexibility and say oh, my goodness, we have done all these changes, we don't need to cut Saturday delivery. We can still do it. We may need to streamline it. We may need to do curbside instead of going to the door. We may need to do clusters. We may need to shift it into rural areas. We have already cut, we have consolidated. That's what the two-year study is. If it doesn't work, we'll cut it, bang. But just to cut off your nose to spite your face, it makes no - no sense to me."

Senator Lieberman: (4:12 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "Too often the public is so frustrated and angry at us because we leave problems unsolved because we get stuck in partisan or ideological or procedural gridlock. This is a real problem. The post office lost more than $13 billion in the last two years. Would have been $5 billion more if we hadn't waived a payment responsibility that the post office had to the retirees' benefit health plan. This can't go on this way. If we don't act, it's not as if nothing will happen. Something will happen. The post office will continue to spiral downward and the postmaster will inevitably have to impose really dramatic cuts in services and personnel. So I think it's our responsibility to create a set of rules and procedures here that acknowledge the need for change in the postal service, create a process, really actually authorize the post office to do some things it hasn't been able to do to raise more money and to create a process for changing the business model of the U.S. Postal Service so it can survive in a very different age, the age of email, and also flourish. Because so many people in our country depend on it for doing so. 563 million pieces of mail get delivered by the U.S. Postal Service every day. So this is not some kind of irrelevant, antiquated relic somewhere. This is a beating, functioning, critically important element of our life, our commerce, and our culture, and a lot of people depend on it. So we got a responsibility to change it to keep it alive."

Senator Collins: (4:22 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "There's so many creative ways that we can preserve Postal Services in rural areas and yet reduce costs. And I think the Postal Service needs to be far more creative in its approach. But I do not support the approach that Senator McCain has laid out. One of his proposals would create a new bureaucracy. I thought we were against creating new bureaucracies around here. A new control board that would be over the board of governors and would have these dictatorial powers over the postal service. That's a proposal that I don't think makes sense. Our approach is to have a commission that would examine the governance of the Postal Service but perhaps what we should be doing if there's something wrong with the structure of the board of governors, it was substantially revised in 2006 but if there is something wrong with it, we should revamp the board of governors, not create this new super-bureaucracy on top of that. I agree with the comments of the Senator from Massachusetts on Saturday delivery. The provision that Senator McCain has to move directly to five-day delivery and his comments, his negative comments on the fact that we would prohibit that from happening for two years misunderstands the intent of our bill. It is not to say that that might never happen, and it is to say that reducing service should be the last resort, not the first option. And the Postal Service has an advantage that it delivers six days a week. Now, if in fact after all the cost and waste and excess has been wrung out of the system and the Postal Service is still not solvent after two years, then we may have to move to five-day delivery. But to give up that advantage immediately, I can tell you what's going to happen. The volume of mail will decline further. And if the volume of mail declines further after having a 26% decline over the past five years, what's going to happen? And once the big mailers in particular leave the postal service, they are not coming back. And the Postal Service will sink further and further into a death spiral. So my approach is to try to keep and grow the customers for the Postal Service. And I think moving to Saturday delivery would drive more mail away, and would hurt service and thus decrease the volume. So I do not think that that is a good approach. But the reason for our two-year delay is - is not an endless study, as has been described by the senator from Arizona, it is to allow time for the retirement incentives to go into effect, the downsizing of the work force to go into effect, the workers' comp reforms to go into effect, the new arbitration provisions to go into effect, the administrative efficiencies that we mandate, countless, countless provisions of the bill to go into effect. And I believe that if they are aggressively and well implemented by the Postal Service leaders, if they are, that there will be no need to eliminate Saturday delivery and that is the reason for the provision in our bill."