WASHINGTON, April 17 - The Senate today voted 74-22 to take up legislation to modernize the U.S. Postal Service. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led a group of more than two dozen senators who pressed to make the bill stronger.
"Today's vote clears the first of many hurdles that we face in our effort to save rural post offices, mail processing plants and the jobs of tens of thousands of postal workers," Sanders said. "It's a step forward but we have a very long way to go."
The managers' amendment that Sanders helped write strengthens the original bill by including the creation of a blue-ribbon commission to help the Postal Service develop a more entrepreneurial business model which could substantially increase revenue. A "chief innovation officer" would be created to oversee the development of new postal products and services to improve the Postal Service's financial position.
"I hope we can agree that the Postal Service needs to change and become more entrepreneurial. I hope we can also agree that in the midst of a terrible recession it makes no sense to downsize the Postal Service by tens of thousands of workers, slow mail delivery service and devastate rural communities by closing their post offices," Sanders said.
Under the managers' amendment, the Postal Service would be required to maintain regional overnight delivery standards. As a result, the Postal Service would be required to keep at least 100 mail sorting centers open that are now scheduled for closure.
The Senate bill also was reworked at Sanders' request to make it harder to shut down rural post offices. Before closing a post office, the Postal Service would have to take into account the lack of access to the Internet, broadband, and cell phone service, among other factors, and it could not shut down a post office if the Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent body, disagreed with its decision.
Saturday mail delivery would be maintained for at least two years. At that point the Postal Service could end Saturday delivery if it can demonstrate that cutting service would be the only way to achieve long-term financial stability.