Floor Updates

Blumenthal, Udall-NM, Corker, Collins, Lieberman

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 23 2012

04:42 PM

Senator Blumenthal: (3:53 PM)
  • Offered his thoughts and prayers to the families of the 28 construction workers who died in the L'Ambiance Plaza collapse on April 23, 1987.
  • Spoke on OSHA rule making standards.
    • SUMMARY "I hope that we will make progress under Senator Harkin's leadership on an OSHA rule making standards more effective and more easily adopted. There are a number of steps, simple and easy steps, that can be adopted. Expediting approval of safety standards is one of them Easier court approval also must be enabled. The current standard for judicial review is a major factor in affecting the time line of OSHA's standard-setting process. The existing substantial evidence standard requiring that OSHA research all industry processes associated with the issue being regulated is disproportionately burdensome when compared to the requirements placed upon other federal agencies. And the standard should be reevaluated. And, finally, deadlines and time lines for standards setting should be adopted directed by the congress. To minimize the time it takes OSHA to issue occupational safety and health standards, experts and agency officials agree that statutory time lines for issuing standards should be imposed by congress and enforce by the courts."

Senator Udall-NM: (4:06 PM)
  • Spoke on Udall (NM) amendment #2043 (mail delivery schedule) to the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "An imminent reduction of service to five days a week is not the answer. Number one, a shift to a five-day service could result in the loss of up to 80,000 jobs nationally. Is this the time to be proposing 80,000 layoffs? Two, five-day service would undercut a market advantage that the U.S. Postal Service currently has over its competitors. And, three, especially in rural America, many of our businesses and most vulnerable citizens depend on six-day postal delivery. Newspapers, advertisers, pharmacy delivery services, senior citizens all could be hurt by the loss of Saturday service. Last week I met with the community of Mule Creek back home in New Mexico. Mule creek is small and rural. Folks there told me they have no cell phone service, no high-speed internet. They depend on their Post Office it is the lifeline, the center of their community. And not just five days a week. For many working people, Saturday is the only day they can sign for packages, including for delivery of prescription drugs. I know that some of my colleagues believe that moving to five-day service is necessary because of the Postal Service's financial problems, but we need to give the changes we're making in the bill a chance to take effect. Two years simply isn't enough time before we make such a drastic and far-reaching change. We should not rush prematurely to five-day service."

Senator Corker: (4:12 PM)
  • Spoke on Corker amendment #2083 (delivery frequency, rate regulation, reduction-in-force procedures, and Post Offices).
    • SUMMARY "My amendment to s. 1789 gives the U.S. Post Office greater flexibility in three primary areas: facilities and service, pricing, and labor. On the facilities and service, it allows the United States Post Office to continue closing Post Offices, using the existing procedures for Post Office closures. They already exist. Instead of creating further barriers to closures, which this bill does. These procedures are well thought out and give ample opportunities for public comment and appeals. It also allows the Post Office to proceed with their proposed change in delivery service standards, something they have proposed, a key component to their five-year plan of profitability. This amendment also allows the Post Office to immediately implement five-day delivery if it chooses, a move that the U.S. Post Office believes may save nearly $2 billion a year. The underlying bill, on the other hand, requires a two-year delay in further study of this issue with the - which the Post Office already knows needs to happen. We don't need a study to tell us what we already know. The Post Office needs flexibility in its delivery schedule, and a number of interested parties including the Post Office and the president, the president, support moving to a five-day delivery. Furthermore, my amendment allows the Post Office to close processing and distribution centers, something the Post Office has identified as needed action for nearly a decade. On pricing, my amendment removes the arbitrary CPI-based cap put in place by the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Put simply, this gives the Post Office more flexibility to adjust their prices as markets change. Current law and 1789 actually mandates that the Post Office provide some services at a loss. It is unbelievable the calls we have been receiving in our office that basically point to the tremendous corporate welfare that is in existence, people calling me, not wanting these changes because it affects their business. A congressional mandate at the U.S. Post Office provides certain services - it mandates that the Post Office provide certain services without covering their costs, and that makes very little sense. Please note, that this would not allow the Post Office to arbitrary raise rates. At will. They would still be subject to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the PRC regulation. Finally on labor, my amendment gives the Post Office greater flexibility to reduce its work force as needed and negotiate contracts that makes sense for financial situation. Since labor costs make up approximately 80% of the Post Office's cost structure, it is clear that any good-faith postal reform proposal must include labor reform. First, it prohibits the inclusion of a no layoff clause. Let me underline this. In the future, in the future, in future collective bargaining agreements. It does not alter currently in place that contain these clauses. This is only for future, future clauses. As mail volume continues to decline, the Post Office must have the flexibility to change the size and makeup of its work force as needed. Second, this amendment eliminates a provision in existing law that requires fringe benefits for Post Office employees be at least as good as those that existed in 1971. These benefits represent a huge portion of fixed labor costs which currently place a major burden on Post Office operations. Eliminating this provision will give the Post Office more options in contract negotiation rather than hamstringing them. So, my amendment is a balanced approach that strives to give the U.S. Post Office maximum flexibility in multiple areas as they work towards financial stability. And here's the best part. According to CBO, which just contacted us today, this bill saves $21 billion over the next decade."

Senator Collins: (4:21 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Our bill recognizes that the Postal Service should, if possible, avoid deep cuts in its service, and certainly eliminating one day a week of delivery is a deep cut in the service that it is providing. It recognizes, however, that if the Postal Service cannot wring out the excessive costs that is in its current system, that it may have no choice but to eliminate Saturday delivery in order to become solvent. So what we do is allow a two-year person during which time the Postal Service would implement the many cost savings provisions that are in our bill, including a work force reduction of 18% - that's about 100,000 employees, through compassionate means, such as buyouts and retirement incentives, and then have the GAO and the PRC, the Post Regulatory Commission, certify that despite undertaking all of these cost-saving moves, it is not possible for the Postal Service to return to solvency without this deep service cut. But to move immediately to eliminating Saturday delivery would come at a real cost, and it may not be necessary. It may not be necessary at all. I would also point out that the experts in this area are the members of the postal regulatory commission. The experts are not at CBO the experts are the regulators of the Postal Service, the PRC and when the PRC examined the issue of eliminating Saturday delivery, here's what it found. First of all, it found that the potential savings were far less than the Postal Service estimated. In fact, that they were half as much as the Postal Service estimated. Second, they found that eliminating saturday delivery put rural America in particular at a disadvantage, because rural America often does not have access to broadband, to internet services and to alternative delivery systems, so that the PRC which looked at this issue very carefully and issued a report found that the savings were less by half and that the consequences were far more severe for rural America. Saturday delivery also gives the Postal Service itself a competitive advantage over non-postal alternatives. If we are here trying to save the Postal Service, why would we jeopardize an asset that the Postal Service has that its competitors do not, and that's why we came up with this carefully crafted compromise on this issue."

Senator Lieberman: (4:36 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "From Tennessee and to others who may be following the debate, this substitute bill of ours, 1789, is not just fluff. The Postal Service itself estimates that over the coming three years, that is, by 2016 fiscal year, our bill if enacted will enable the Postal Service to save $19 billion annually. They were hoping for $20 billion, but $19 billion is pretty close. And I think we've done it without the dislocations to the millions of people in our society who depend on the mail and depend on mailing industries for their jobs as well as the hundreds of thousands of people who work for the Postal Service. 18% of whom, we hope will receive incentives that will be adequate for them to think about retirement. But this is a bill that creates a transition that will keep the Postal Service alive, and we think even healthier without the kind of jolts, sudden jolts that the amendment offered by my friend from Tennessee would impose."