WASHINGTON – The Senate is expected to approve legislation Wednesday aimed at shoring up the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service and avoiding draconian cuts to services.
The Postal Service needs to cut costs by $20 billion to return to profitability by 2015, according to Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and other proponents of the bill.
The legislation would allow postal officials to offer early retirement incentives that an estimated 100,000 workers would accept. Those incentives would be paid for by allowing the Postal Service to recover $11 billion in overpayments made to a workers compensation program.
The bill would keep Saturday mail delivery for at least two more years and should ensure half of the 260 mail processing facilities slated for closing stay open, proponents said.
While it is not certain which facilities would be kept, Pryor said he hopes some in Arkansas can be spared. The Postal Service has announced plans to close processing and distribution facilities in Jonesboro, Hot Springs and Harrison.
The Senate worked through a series of amendments Tuesday after the bill cleared an early test vote that indicated it is likely to pass.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and other fiscal conservatives, raised a budget point of order against the bill saying it would increase the federal debt by $34 billion.
They noted that last year’s Budget Control Act prohibited the Senate from bringing forward legislation that adds to the deficit.
The Senate voted 62-37 to waive the provision, allowing the bill to proceed.
Pryor voted to move forward with the bill. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., voted to shelve it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Tuesday evening that as many as nine more amendments would be voted upon Wednesday afternoon and then the Senate would consider a final vote on passage.