Senate approves bill to bail out post office
Co-author Sen. Susan Collins adds a provision to keep the Hampden processing center open.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The Senate offered a lifeline to the nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday, voting to approve a measure that would give the struggling agency an $11 billion cash infusion while delaying controversial decisions on closing post offices and ending Saturday delivery.
A key provision of the bill co-authored by U.S. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would save the Eastern Maine Processing Center in Hampden, along with dozens of others nationwide, which had been slated for closure by the Postal Service, according to a press release by Collins' office.
The bill also includes a one-year moratorium on closures of small, rural post offices unless there is no significant community opposition to the closure, Collins' office said.
By a 62-37 vote, senators approved the measure.
"Today's vote is also a win for bipartisanship," Collins said in the press release. "The process we've just completed on this bill demonstrates Senators can work together."
HERE WE GO AGAIN
The issue now goes to the House, which has yet to consider a separate version.
The postal service criticized the measure, saying it fell far short in stemming financial losses. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said if the bill became law, he would have to return to Congress in a few years to get emergency help.
"It is totally inappropriate in these economic times to keep unneeded facilities open. There is simply not enough mail in our system today," the Postal Service's board of governors said in a statement. "It is also inappropriate to delay the implementation of five-day delivery."
The Senate bill would halt the immediate closing of up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 post offices, part of a postal cost-cutting plan to save some $6.5 billion a year. Donahoe previously said he would begin making cuts after May 15 if Congress didn't act, warning that the agency could run out of money this fall.
The Senate bill faces an uncertain future. The House version, approved in committee last year, would create a national commission with the power to scrap no-layoff clauses in employee contracts and make other cuts.