Congress grants Postal Service a big extension


(Timothy Fadek/BLOOMBERG)

Buried within the omnibus spending package that funds government operations through September is language giving USPS until August to prefund the future retirements of hundreds of thousands of workers, as required by law.

“We are pleased that the action taken by Congress and the president once again prevents the Postal Service from defaulting on the $5.5 billion payment to prefund retiree health benefits,” USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said Monday. “We hope this latest deferral gives Congress time to pass comprehensive legislation to address this and other critical issues to help the Postal Service return to profitability.”

The bill also mandates that the Postal Service continue delivering mail six days a week — an annual provision in the spending bill. Those orders could change, however, if a push to deliver mail just five days a week is included as part of postal reform proposals expected to be considered by the House and Senate next year.

Postal officials are seeking sweeping legislative changes that would save USPS about $20 billion in the coming years by reducing mail deliveries and closing thousands of post offices and mail processing facilities.

Those proposals are said to be complicating negotiations with two postal labor unions. Over the weekend, USPS and representatives of the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union agreed to extend negotiations until Jan. 20, more than a month after the expiration of previous labor contracts.

“We are encouraged that progress is still being made, and we want to take all the time necessary to reach an agreement that serves the interests of America’s city letter carriers,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said in a message to members. “We are committed to achieving a win-win contract at this crucial time in the history of the Postal Service.”

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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