The debt-ridden U.S. Postal Service got a vote of support from Congress as lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation to reduce financial obligations that had been dragging it down like an overweight package.
The Senate passed the bill in a 79-19 vote Tuesday.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill, originally co-sponsored by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., into law.
The bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act will allow the post office to continue mail service at the same frequency, forgive some debts and cut costs by cutting health care expenditures for its workforce.
The bill will ensure that that the post office continues to deliver the mail every day except Sunday and require the institution to be more straightforward about when mail items will be received.
The bipartisan legislation will include $107 billion in debt forgiveness and cost-saving measures.
The postal service has struggled through years of financial duress because of funding cuts and lower profits as a result of the internet.
The cost-saving measures in part include reducing health care expenses. The reform bill strikes a requirement that the USPS pay in advance for the health care of older employees who are no longer working. In addition, older workers in the future will receive health care through some Medicare programs, as opposed to remaining on the Postal Service and Federal Employees Health Benefits Programs.
In the Congressional Budget Office estimate, Medicare spending would increase by $5.6 billion between the 2021 and 2031 fiscal years as a result. This drew opposition of some Republicans like Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Other senators, like Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pushed back Monday against the claim that the bill would place an undue burden on Medicare.
Both of Arizona’s Democratic senators supported the USPS legislation.
Sen. Krysten Sinema, chair of the Senate’s Government Operations Subcommittee that is responsible for USPS, is an original cosponsor of the bill.
“Arizonans all over our state depend on the Postal Service to send letters to loved ones, pay bills, receive paychecks and prescriptions, and so much more. That’s why we’re proud our Postal Service Reform Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now heads to the President’s desk, ensuring Arizonans can count on reliable mail delivery,” Sinema said in a statement after the vote.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Postal Service Reform Act Feb. 8.
Tara Kavaler is a politics reporter at The Arizona Republic. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kavalertara.