As Senators scrambled to save post offices from closing in their hometowns, they opted today not to protect most of the post offices in the Capitol complex.
Leading up to passage of a bill aimed at aiding the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, the chamber adopted by voice vote an amendment that would limit post offices in the Capitol to two: one on the House side and one on the Senate side.
There are currently seven post offices operating in House and Senate office buildings and the Capitol.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who offered the amendment, said that as the Postal Service seeks to close thousands of post offices around the country to save money, shuttering post offices used almost exclusively by lawmakers and staffers is “the very least we can do.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the architects of the Postal Service overhaul bill, called the amendment “common sense” and emphasized that closing five of the seven post offices would not affect Congressional mail processing.
The Postal Service is already considering closing three Capitol campus post offices. And some lawmakers argue that Congress should be enabling the agency to decide what outlets need to be closed rather than legislating such closures.
“I’m a big fan that the post office needs to do what’s in its financial best interest, and so I would support anything which is cost effective for them,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a leader of the House’s Postal Service overhaul efforts, said last week.
D.C. Special Election Bill Advances
Almost two months after House passage and with no discussion or debate, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee swiftly approved a bill today to amend District of Columbia’s rules about when special elections can be scheduled.
Under current law, the city can hold special elections for vacancies in local offices on the first Tuesday 114 days after a vacancy is declared. This bill would narrow the window so that a special election could be scheduled at least 70 days and not more than 174 days following the announcement of an empty seat.
A similar bill won House passage in the 111th Congress but was stalled in the Senate by an anonymous hold — likely from a lawmaker using the bill as leverage for an unrelated matter.
Had that bill been enacted, it would have saved the District a great deal of money. In January, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. resigned in scandal. Because of the existing restrictions, the special election to replace him could not be held to coincide with the April 3 primary.
The cost of scheduling a separate special election in May will cost the city an additional $360,000, according to a statement from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-D.C.) office.
Now that anonymous holds are no longer allowed, Norton and others are confident the bill will advance.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.