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Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi

Representing the 8th District of Illinois

In partisan Washington, something we agree on: Saving the post office

April 20, 2017
Op-Eds

By Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi

Published by Crain's Chicago Business

Last month, the country witnessed President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives fail to pass a health care bill because they only included Republicans in the process. From the outset, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to include Democrats and their ideas in drafting the bill. When too few Republicans chose to support it, the proposal died without even coming to a vote.

But there's another model of how to make progress in Washington—even in a highly partisan environment.

Recently, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, on which I serve, passed a bill that will save the financially precarious United States Postal Service. Even as the internet and other communications advancements have challenged the postal service, it remains an important institution—particularly to millions of small businesses.

Mail in our country serves as an economic engine. It's a $1.4 trillion industry and employs nearly 8 million people, including more than 380,000 Illinoisans. Beyond these numbers, mail serves a vital role in our national economic infrastructure by making it possible for nearly every business to function, especially those with customers in rural areas. Mail enables businesses to deliver vital services and products, including medication, and allows these same businesses to receive payments in a timely way. In short, mail in this age of Amazon and other direct-to-consumer businesses is indispensable to American commerce.

For now, USPS is teetering on the brink due largely to $50 billion in unfunded liability for its retirees' health care. The Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 addresses that problem by requiring postal service employees to enroll in Medicare when they become eligible. Even though USPS and its employees have paid $29 billion into Medicare since 1983, most of its retirees don't participate in the program. Through this retirement reform, as well as a combination of streamlining and modernization measures, this bipartisan legislation would financially stabilize USPS while improving its efficiency.

At a February committee hearing, we heard from USPS management, the National Association of Letter Carriers and other stakeholders, including representatives of small business. Everyone recognized the importance of USPS and supported the legislation, which passed the committee with bipartisan support.

There's still far too much partisanship in Washington today. But the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 has shown that much can be accomplished when everyone participates in the process.

Now that the bill stands ready to come to the House floor, I hope all my colleagues will join me in voting for it. We must seize upon this opportunity to not only safeguard our postal service as a building block of our economy but also to demonstrate what our government can do when everyone, regardless of party, comes together to solve a problem.