Senate panel passes Tester’s measure to halt post office closures

Senator also pushes for more accountability from Postmaster General

(U.S. SENATE) – With strong bipartisan support, a Senate panel today passed a measure by Sen. Jon Tester to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from closing rural post offices until it establishes clear criteria for determining whether a post office should be closed, and fully considers alternative ways to save money, such as shortening hours of operation and relocating post offices to other places of business. 

Tester, a member of the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service, successfully added his provision to the 21st Century Postal Service Act. The legislation is aimed at preserving the Postal Service, which is struggling to make ends meet.

“There’s no doubt that the Postal Service needs strong action to get back on sound financial footing,” Tester said. “But the Postmaster General cannot balance his books on the back of Rural America. Montanans have made it clear to me that they depend on their community post offices for reliable mail service, and I won’t let the Postal Service ignore their voices.”

Tester’s provision is cosponsored by Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan. The measure also requires the Postal Service to reexamine any post office closings made before the bill becomes law.

Tester has been a vocal critic of the Postal Service’s proposal to close 85 rural post offices in Montana and he has directed his staff to attend as many public meetings as possible to get input from Montanans. 

“There’s never been an explanation given at any of these meetings as to why a post office is being considered for closure,” Tester said. “This amendment brings some transparency and accountability to the process, and not a moment too soon.”

Tester’s amendment gives the Postal Service six months to develop new criteria, which must include considerations of distance to other post offices and whether other alternatives can be found. After the criteria are developed, the Postal Service must reconsider each post office that is still being considered for closure.

During today’s hearing, Tester also pushed to hold the Postmaster General more accountable for the Postal Service’s actions. 

Tester said that public service is “an honor” and that public officials shouldn’t be receiving outlandish salaries and benefits for their work, especially when the Postal Service is facing difficult times.

In Fiscal Year 2010, the Postmaster General received $800,000 in total compensation, including over $270,000 in salary and bonuses, despite the fact that the Postal Service lost $8.5 billion in 2010 and has shed nearly 20 percent of its workforce since 2006. 

The 21st Century Postal Service Act, as amended by Tester, now awaits a vote by the full Senate.