(WASHINGTON) -- In the 18 months the 112th Congress has been sworn in, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. Thirty-eight have passed the House and 26 have become law.
But not a single bill has come to the House floor aimed at reforming a Postal Service, which is bleeding billions of dollars because of Congressional mandates.
On Wednesday, the United States Postal Service will default on a Congressional mandate to pay $5.5 billion to “prefund” health benefits for future retirees. On Friday, House of Representatives will leave town for a five-week summer vacation. There is no plan to take up postal reform before that summer recess.
The Postal Service has attempted to enact an array of cost-cutting measures to pull itself out of a $22.5 billion budget shortfall. Over the past five years, USPS has cut more than 110,000 employees. The mail service, which takes no taxpayer money but is regulated by Congress, has announced plans to close or consolidate 230 mail processing centers, cutting 13,000 jobs and saving an estimated $1.2 billion annually.
The service attempted to close 3,700 post offices under a plan announced last year, but after public outcry decided to cut operating hours to between two and six hours per day at 13,000 locations. USPS claims that move will save $500 million per year.
One of the largest cost-saving measures would be ending Saturday mail delivery, a move the Postal Service says will save $3.1 billion a year. But USPS can’t cut delivery without Congressional approval, and partisan disagreements over whether Congress should take control of USPS’ operations until it is solvent again or if it should leave the decision making to the postmaster general have halted any action on Capitol Hill.
USPS claims that if Congress does not act, the mail service will default not only on the $5.5 billion payment due Wednesday, but also on another $5.6 billion payment for future retiree’s benefit due Sept. 30.
The Postal Service has pleaded with Congress for years to end the requirement that it pre-fund its retiree’s health benefits. But many lawmakers claim that because USPS has such a massive workforce -- there are 614,000 Postal Service employees -- it will not be able to pay them in the future if it does not pre-fund retirement benefits.
And as long as these disagreements persist, it looks like naming post offices is the closest Congress will get to passing postal reform.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio