May 8, 2015 Postmasters may have evaded an early 2015 attack on federal health and retirement programs. Our work to educate Members of Congress during the Leadership Conference and at subsequent political events – particularly regard member of the Senate – paid a meaningful dividend.
On Tuesday, May 5, the Senate passed the “conference agreement” for the fiscal year 2016 Congressional Budget Resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, by a narrow 51-48 majority. The House passed the same legislation on April 20, with a 226-197 majority. Although the resolution assumes approximately $193 billion in ten-year cuts to programs that may impact the postal and federal community, it does not mandate that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee or the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee take specific legislative actions to implement those cuts. In addition, the budget resolution does not have the force of law, since it does not go to the President for his signature.
As you may recall, in late March, the House of Representatives approved its version of a congressional budget, House Concurrent Resolution 27, that would have a devastating impact on federal and postal employees and retirees, including NAPUS members. The total hit to the community would have been about $300 billion. NAPUS strongly opposed the measure and co-signed a letter to Congress with 28 allied employee and retiree groups, outlining our objections. The House-passed version of the resolution targeted federal pension contributions, Thrift Savings Plan earnings, Federal Employee Health Program premiums and U.S. Postal Service operations. (For specifics, see April-May Postmasters 2015 Gazette.) Subsequently, the House-Senate Conference Committee on the budget negotiated a compromise bill that stripped the specific policy recommendations from the House budget resolution, meaning that the policies will not be included in the “budget reconciliation process.”
NAPUS Legislative, PAC Chairs, and the NAPUS Executive Board were provided a detailed primer on the dangers of budget reconciliation. In sum, the congressional committees that have jurisdiction over postal and federal issues would have been instructed to reconcile current law with the budget resolution and implement the toxic anti-Postmaster policies. Senate rules provide for expedited consideration of the entire budget package, which would have included those policies. The accelerated consideration would have limited Senate debate and required only a “simple majority” (i.e., 51 votes) to pass.
Inasmuch as our House and Senate committees were not given reconciliation instructions by the budget resolution, they would need to pass those policies under “regular order” in the Senate if it were to be decided to take up any of the aforementioned cuts. This means that any such legislation would need to be introduced as a free-standing bill, could be subject to a Senate filibuster and would likely require a 60-vote Senate supermajority to pass.
Nevertheless, there are still numerous opportunities for a budget-driven Congress to seek benefit Postmaster cuts on a fast-track basis. For example, Congress may feel the need to offset the elimination of budget sequestration with cuts to Postmaster benefits, or use the debate over raising the national debt limit to get at postal and federal employee benefits. Consequently, the NAPUS Government Relations Department will be carefully monitoring the entire budget process and beyond.
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