I had originally expressed skepticism over the idea that Nancy Pelosi would actually call the House back for a rare weekend vote in the middle of their August recess, but she actually did it. (By the way, it must be nice to get the entire month of August off. What is this… France?) So did they get around to passing a compromise bill that the GOP would sign off on for additional COVID-19 relief or an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits? Don’t be silly. They passed a measure designed to thwart any changes being made at the US Postal Service and then adjourned until September. You see, saving the Post Office was that critical. But as we’ll see in a moment, the Democrats in both chambers didn’t always feel that the fortunes of the USPS were so critical to democracy. (NBC News)
The House passed a bill Saturday giving $25 billion in emergency funds to the U.S. Postal Service and reversing recent cost-cutting operational changes. Democrats are seeking to reinforce the agency ahead of the November election when many voters are expected to cast mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote passed 257-150 in the Democratic-controlled House, earning some support from Republicans who expressed concerns about delayed mail. The bill is likely to meet significant opposition in the GOP-led Senate.
The rare Saturday session in August comes amid a national uproar over mail interference, putting the Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at the center of an unprecedented election year. The House will recess again until next month.
Cocaine Mitch has already weighed in on this and he shows no appetite for debating such a bill in the upper chamber. Further, the odds of the President signing such a bill are pretty much zero. So in other words, Nancy Pelosi dragged the House back into session for yet another dramatic, showboating vote that will be meaningless, coincidentally (I’m sure) on the eve of the GOP convention and Trump’s renomination.
But as I mentioned above, let’s look at the substance of the bill. The Post Office is still losing money and remains in a tenuous situation in terms of their budget. The bill that the House passed would inject $25 billion into their coffers, so if you’re really interested in making sure the USPS remains healthy, that’s a nice gesture, right? Sure. But let’s just say that this hand-wringing and concern over the fate of the organization is something of a recent development.
Let’s jump in the Way-Back Machine and see how Congress was handling this same situation back in October of 2015. Those were the heady days of Barack Obama’s presidency, as well as the period when Hillary Clinton was firing up her primary bid in the early states, widely expected to win the Democratic nomination and then go on to become the nation’s first female president. While it didn’t get nearly as much air time then, the USPS was already in dire straights. They’d lost money for nearly every year for the past half-decade. (Things did improve a bit in the following couple of years, though.) In fact, they were begging Congress for relief at the time.
And how did our legislature respond? A proposal was put on the table by a bipartisan coalition including Elaine Kamarck, a former Clinton administration official, to break up the Post Office and sell off its package delivery services. Who was the Minority Leader in the House back then? That’s right. It was Nancy Pelosi. Harry Reid was in charge of the minority in the Senate, but Chuck Schumer was already one of the senior figures by that point and widely seen as Reid’s likely successor.
The Washington Post published a couple of analysis pieces featuring a Brookings Institute study suggesting that this might be the only way to effectively deal with the Post Office’s financial woes. At the same time, what the Post Office was asking for was relief from a Congressional requirement that they set aside $5.5 billion a year to be put toward health care costs in the agency’s bloated retirement and pension plans. Without that requirement, they would have shown a profit during those same years. And what was the answer they received from Congress? Go pound sand.
We were heading into a “critical” presidential election then also and there were certainly going to be the normal number of people requesting absentee ballots and voting by mail in the few states already using that system. Where was all of this concern for the vital nature of the Post Office and the danger any shortcomings could present to our most vulnerable citizens then? Nowhere to be seen. The Post Office has been in financial trouble for decades and the changes being scheduled by the Trump administration to address those shortcoming have been in the works for quite a while. But this is 2020, so everything has to be the center ring at the circus. It’s all so very tiresome.