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For Some, All Politics Is Postal

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Chris Van Hollen managed to stave off the closure of a post office just outside a senior citizen community in his Maryland district.

The Postal Service is “a victim of technology, just as the Pony Express was victim of technology when the railroads came in,” McCain said. “That is what it’s all about. The question is not whether it’s going to be dramatically reduced in its importance in Americans’ lives, the question is how much it’s going to cost to do it.”

The Senate bill — sponsored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) — is expected to set up a process to close post offices and cut back service. The House also is expected to move a bill this summer that would create a panel to implement reforms. But the Senate wants to act before May 15, which is the end of a moratorium for closing post offices and processing centers. A final vote could come as early as this week.

In addition to states with elderly populations, the debate also has pitted states with more urban areas against rural states where delivering the mail can be more expensive.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, said it’s a matter of fairness.

Baucus wants a bill that “does not discriminate against rural America,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to help support the post office, but you can’t do it on the backs of rural America.”

Baucus on Tuesday voted against a procedural motion that allowed the Senate to take up the measure. He was one of the four Democrats to do so, but the bill garnered 74 votes to overcome a threatened filibuster.

Baucus is supporting an amendment being offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would create a two-year moratorium on closing post offices. The amendment also would establish conditions for closing post offices, such as ensuring that seniors and persons with disabilities receive the same or substantially similar service. Also, the economic loss as a result of the closure would not be allowed to exceed the savings to the Postal Service.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who also voted against ending debate Monday, offered an amendment that would place a straight two-year moratorium on closing post offices.

He also recommended that the USPS look to make cuts elsewhere including eliminating bonuses for Postal Service executives and ending USPS sponsorships of the U.S. Tour de France team and a NASCAR team, among others.

“I have heard from hundreds of constituents expressing the very same concern: They want their post offices to stay open,” Manchin said. “Private companies won’t step in if the government leaves, and that will simply disconnect our rural communities from the rest of this great nation.”

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