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Protect the Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is being made yet another pawn in the ongoing political gamesmanship between party leadership on both sides of the aisle. These games have undermined people’s faith in the USPS and hurt businesses that rely on the post office to serve customers.

It was disappointing to see Rep. Tom Tiffany put party loyalty over protecting the USPS. Tiffany joined with other members of Wisconsin’s Republican Congressional delegation to vote against HR 8015, which passed the House of Representatives, 257-150, on largely party-line votes, with all Democrats and just 26 Republicans voting in favor. Voting against were 149 Republicans and one Libertarian, with 23 Republicans and one Democrat not voting.

The bill prohibits the USPS from reducing service below levels in effect at the start of the year and requires it to treat official election envelopes as first-class mail in this fall’s balloting. In addition, the bill provides $25 billion requested by the postal service for coping with the coronavirus outbreak in the budget year starting Oct. 1.

Until the pandemic has run its course, the bill would prohibit the USPS from: Delaying deliveries or increasing the volume of undelivered mail.

Closing or consolidating any post office or reducing the business hours.

Denying overtime pay to USPS employees.

Watering down measurements of whether service standards are being achieved.

Lowering nationwide or regional service standards.

Tiffany was correct in voting in favor of an amendment to the bill that would make it a federal crime for a postal worker to tamper with election mail and would also prioritize the delivery of prescription drugs, equipping mail personnel with protective gear and processing election ballots. That amendment failed on party lines.

Many of the bill’s measures are intended to prevent Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from slashing service, gutting capacity and cutting wages as shortcuts to profitability. Cutting services and removing infrastructure is a short term money saving solution that does nothing to address the long term financial issues facing the USPS. In the private sector, it would be the same mentality as shutting down the company’s main manufacturing plant in order to make this quarter’s profit goals, without thinking about the need to actually have a place to manufacture products.

By mandate, the USPS must operate on its own revenues. At the same time it is being set up to fail due to a unique set of rules about how the USPS must account for pensions and retirement. These rules are far in excess of any accounting standard in the private sector or government. Any reform measures must include the repeal of these rules.

Despite passing the House, the bill in its current form has little chance of being acted on in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, with party leadership there preferring to have it rolled into a larger stimulus package. In a statement about his vote, Tiffany said, “The bill is a transparent, election-year effort by Democrats to ram through a misguided taxpayer bailout of the postal service by promoting ‘disappearing mailbox’ conspiracy theories. The USPS is in need of modernization and reform, but it currently has adequate cash on hand and has assured the public that it will remain fully operational well beyond the November election. This is not a serious piece of legislation, it is just another, desperate and dishonest partisan attempt by Speaker Pelosi and others to frighten voters in the lead up to the election.”

This is all the more reason to contact Rep. Tiffany and Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin and tell them to stop playing political games with fundamental services such as the USPS.

Editorial from the Star News editorial board, including Brian Wilson, Carol O'Leary and Kris O'Leary.