Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong is not a high priority for the new leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Incoming Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., said his top priority for the committee, which oversees the U.S. Postal Service, is to pass a new postal overhaul bill.
“I want to pass a bill, similar to the last Congress, that puts the postal service on the right track,” Carper said. “My early goal legislatively is to get that done, and I have not spent a lot of time thinking about Lance Armstrong.”
The U.S. Postal Service paid more than $30 million between 2000 and 2004 to sponsor the U.S. road cycling team led by Armstrong. Last week, Armstrong admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The USPS sponsorship began in 1996 and Armstrong joined the team in 1999. He won the Tour de France six times under the sponsorship deal. He won his seventh tour after the sponsorship ended. He has since been stripped of the victories by cycling authorities.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is the new ranking member on the committee, said it’s just another example of wasteful spending, but he too noted it’s not a top priority for him on the panel.
“It fits with all the other stuff that we are advertising for,” said Coburn, who has long criticized such government spending.
“I think it’s excessive, but it’s probably money out the door. There’s probably nothing we could do about it,” Coburn said.
Coburn did say he wondered who at the USPS had authorized the expenditure, but added, “it’s not high on my priorities.”
A report the USPS inspector general released earlier this month said that the agency, which spent $147 million on advertising in fiscal 2011, did “not adequately” monitor “its two largest advertising contracts, which threatened the effectiveness and integrity of its advertising program.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who like Coburn is also a fiscal hawk, agreed that Congress may not have a role to play in the issue.
Asked if he would like to see an investigation, McCain said, “No, but we should demand our money back.”
Armstrong is reportedly in talks to repay some of the money he received from USPS.
The Senate last year passed a postal overhaul measure designed to help the agency get its finances in order. The Postal Service, with about 570,000 employees, is the nation’s second-largest civilian employer after Wal-Mart. But with the increase in paperless communication and a commensurate decline in mail volume, the service loses up to $16 billion a year. The House never passed a companion bill, and supporters hope to pass a measure this Congress.