This vote was on a procedural motion that would have cleared the way for a vote on whether the Senate should consider legislation allowing the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday delivery and take other steps to shore up its finances.
With the Postal Service facing annual losses of multiple billions of dollars, Congress was preparing to debate legislation to help put the agency back on sound financial footing. The Senate’s bill would allow delivery to shrink to just five days a week. It would also allow the Postal Service to shrink its workforce by offering incentives to postal workers to retire.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) argued that the bill would help the Postal Service “reduce long-term costs, increase efficiency, and grow into a 21st century service provider” while avoiding some of the most drastic changes that had been proposed to bring the agency’s finances into line.
“Given the wide-reaching impact of the Postal Service, it is clear to me that cutting to the bone is the wrong approach. It will lead to a death spiral and the eventual end of the Postal Service as we know it,” Rep. Durbin said. “The Postal Service must grow and reform its way into 21st century competitiveness. This bill is a first step toward achieving that goal.”
While no senators spoke out against the postal reform bill itself, some Republicans said they opposed the motion because they wanted to continue to debate Democratic legislation to raise taxes on oil companies.
“We are now hearing that the Democrats want to move off this tax-hike legislation – maybe it didn't make the intended political point as forcefully as they wanted – to move on to postal reform,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “I would suggest that the Democrats learn to prioritize. Let's stick with one thing and actually do something... Postal reform is important, but we all know nothing is going to get done on it until after we return from the Easter recess anyway. Let's make that the pending business when we return and put first things first.”
In addition, some Democrats withheld support of the motion in an effort to exact promises from the bill’s sponsors that they would do more to protect rural areas, where Postal Service plans to shutter post offices would force residents to drive long distances for mail service.
“I've repeatedly stressed that the Postal Service plan to close rural post offices is bad for West Virginia communities and will eliminate jobs,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told The Charleston (WV) Gazette.
Even though the procedural motion to move forward with the postal reform bill received 51 “yea” votes and only 46 voted “nay,” the motion failed because it was brought up under Senate rules that require 60 votes for passage. Voting “yea” were 46 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 5 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 39 Republicans and 7 Democrats. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to set up a vote on whether to consider legislation allowing the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday delivery and take other steps to shore up its finances.