House Democratic leaders have resolved to push for $25 billion in funding for the U.S. Postal Service in the next coronavirus relief bill, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney said Tuesday.
“I do have a commitment … of $25 billion to keep the postal office running, which is under the jurisdiction of the Oversight Committee,” the New York Democrat said. “So I’m thrilled that that is in the package.”
The Postal Service is expected to run out of money by the end of September without a new congressional appropriation because it’s losing so much revenue during the pandemic, Maloney said.
“The fact that so many of them are sick; they’re essential workers on the front line,” she said. “So that’s a crisis. If we’re going to a campaign by [mail-in voting] and people need their medicines by mail, we have to have a post office.”
Maloney’s remarks came during a news videoconference that she held on legislation she’s introducing to provide student loan forgiveness for front-line workers. She said leadership has not yet committed to putting that proposal in the next bill but said she plans to continue advocating for it.
Weighing their options
Democrats are currently weighing whether to hold out for a bipartisan agreement on the next relief package or advance their own plan through the House to kick-start negotiations.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday told reporters that she asked House committee leaders to submit their respective portions of draft legislation on Monday so leadership could combine their efforts into a full bill. She declined to say how long it would be before text is ready to be released and brought to the floor for a vote.
“I think the earliest we could do it is next week, but that’s a challenge, because the speaker, correctly, wants to talk to, I’m sure, the administration about items we want to put in,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said. “We would like to see a law passed.”
Although Hoyer suggested that Democrats would prefer to get a bipartisan agreement, he did not rule out moving a bill on their own if Republicans drag their feet.
“We hope it’s a bipartisan bill,” the Maryland Democrat said. “If it’s not, our responsibility is to respond to this crisis, and we will do that.”
It’s a step Democrats may ultimately have to take, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to have joined President Donald Trump in calling for a “pause” in congressional relief.
McConnell said his conference was not ruling out another bill, but he added, “We think we can take a pause here and do a good job of evaluating what we’ve already done.”
During negotiations over the roughly $2 trillion relief bill passed in March, Democrats had proposed $25 billion to get the Postal Service through fiscal 2022 to compensate for revenue lost because of the pandemic.
They said congressional Republicans agreed to some funding, but Trump rejected it because of his view that the Postal Service unfairly subsidizes shipping for companies like Amazon.
During an April 29 White House event with industry executives, Trump said he wants companies that use the Postal Service for shipping to pay more, rather than have taxpayers continue to foot the bill.
“We want to stabilize the post office, and the way you do that is these companies are going to have to pay more, not the people,” he said. “The companies are going to have to pay a percentage of that loss. You can’t do that. The government shouldn’t have to do it. I think the post office could — wouldn’t it be great if it could, after so many decades, break even?”
A few days earlier, Trump had said that raising the price of shipping for companies like Amazon would be a condition of him supporting any funding for the Postal Service.
“If they don’t do it, I’m not signing anything, and I’m not authorizing you to do anything,” he said, addressing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Mnuchin noted that a previous relief package authorized Treasury to loan the Postal Service $10 billion and that his team was working with the agency on that. He said Treasury planned to specify criteria for a postal overhaul program as a condition of the loan.
A recent poll conducted for the American Postal Workers Union, which represents some 200,000 postal workers, found the public largely supportive of postal service relief. Sixty-seven percent of respondents wanted such funding in the next coronavirus bill, while 15 percent were opposed.
Still, supporting the Postal Service has often been a partisan issue in Congress.
On a press call Tuesday hosted by the Center for American Progress, Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Chris Coons of Delaware both supported calls for funding the post office. But Coons, the top Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over elections and Postal Service funding, acknowledged the challenge of convincing Republicans.
“While I remain hopeful there are senators who will hear from their home-state leaders … I have some real concerns about whether we will see a Republican sense of urgency on the Appropriations Committee to provide timely support for the Postal Service,” he said.
Bridget Bowman and David Lerman contributed to this report.