On substance and legislative process, the Postal Service Reform Act (PSRA) is a troubling measure that needs to be tabled in the U.S. Senate until legislators complete a major overhaul. While it has several small-scale, positive components, its major provision shifts a large amount of the Postal Service’s retirement health care costs to Medicare and future retirees.
In addition to six major reform omissions, the bill has been greased to slide through the legislative process with a minimum level of scrutiny. While that may not be unusual in Washington, it is reckless. Here are the three most troubling legislative missteps.
Fluctuating and Limited Cost Estimates. Congress is only considering short-term costs and ignoring longer-term burdens. In a July 14, 2021 analysis the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found PSRA “would increase Medicare spending by $5.6 billion over the 2021-2031 period.” On February 4, after analyzing slightly amended legislation from the House Rules Committee, CBO reported the federal budget would gain $1.5 billion in revenues from PSRA over the next 10 years. With this information in hand, the House Rules Committee promptly voted on the legislation on February 7, with the full House doing so February 8.
The 10-year time frame seems likely to provide the most favorable financial scenario as retiree health care costs rise as retirees get older. Senator Rick Scott was spot-on in asking CBO to determine the cost to Medicare over the next 20 years.
Furthermore, many current postal employees will have to pay more for retirement health coverage when the measure passes, as they will be required to purchase Medicare for such coverage. CBO should provide an estimate of what these costs will be as well.
Leveraging Postmaster General DeJoy’s Political Contacts. When the PSRA was introduced in the U.S. Senate on May 19, 2021 it had 20 co-sponsors, including 10 Republican Senators. The second and third Republican co-sponsors are Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr who, like Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, are from North Carolina.
Senators Tillis and Burr either spontaneously saw the light on the PSRA or took advice from Postmaster General DeJoy, who personally contributed to their campaigns and gave more than $1.1 million to Republican campaign entities in 2020.
Bypassing Committees and Hearings. After the measure passed the House of Representatives on February 8 by a 342-92 vote, Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sought an immediate vote on the bill. On Sunday, February 13, he told the New York Post the measure would pass the next day. He was wrong.
Senator Scott was right to demand more cost information about the bill. Given the importance of the U.S. Postal Service to all Americans, the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee should hold public hearings on the legislation with outside experts and commission reports and studies. No such hearings have even been scheduled since the legislation was introduced on May 19, 2021.
Barring a thorough review and overhaul of the PSRA, it should be returned to sender.
About the Author: Paul Steidler is a Senior Fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.
Find Archived Articles: