This vote was on an amendment that would have put off closure of post offices for at least 2 years.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that would allow the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service to take cost-saving measures. Part of the Postal Service’s plan was to save money by closing post offices and mail processing centers. Sen. Manchin’s amendment would delay closures by 2 years.
Sen. Manchin argued that post offices are “lifelines” for many communities, especially in rural areas. He said the Postal Service should use the 2-year delay to seek savings in other areas – such as pay for top executives and sponsorships for a NASCAR team – before cutting services that people depend on.
“This is all that people have. They get their medicine and they get everything they do and depend on their lifelines with these post offices. They have nothing else,” Sen. Manchin said. “Their towns have just about gone away except for that connection. And I am asking basically for my colleagues to consider keeping these lifelines. Let us work and give us the 2-year period we need.”
Opponents of Sen. Manchin’s amendment noted that the Senate had already agreed to delay the closure of post offices by 1 year, as well as add a proposal by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) requiring more scrutiny of any decision to close a post office. Additional hurdles to closing postal facilities would jeopardize the effort to put the Postal Service back on solid financial footing, they said.
“Let me put it in this context: The U.S. Postal Service is in trouble. It is losing about $23 million or $24 million on the average every day, more than $13 billion in the last 2 years. It is not going to survive if the status quo prevails,” Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) said. “This bill provides for change but in a way that we think is balanced and reasonable. My friend from West Virginia has introduced an amendment that would prohibit all change for the next 2 years and therefore, I think, open the way for a kind of death spiral for the U.S. Postal Service.”
Sen. Manchin’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 43-53. Voting “yea” were 39 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 4 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 40 Republicans and 13 Democrats. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to put off closure of post offices for at least 2 years.