US House passes bill, co-sponsored by Alaska delegation, to fix financial woes of Postal Service

mailboxes under snow at night
Snow-capped mailboxes in Anchorage last year. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The U.S. House passed a bill Tuesday to improve the financial condition of the U.S. Postal Service.

It got an enthusiastic yea from Alaska Congressman Don Young, one of the co-sponsors.

“Now you may wonder why I’m so excited about this bill,” Young said on the House floor. “Try living in Alaska when you don’t have any roads. Try not having anything but your post office. Try not getting your medicines … . The post office is the key to the communities in Alaska. This bill solves all the problems for the post office.”

The bill is a rare piece of legislation in Congress these days — it aims to fix long-standing problems without going after big partisan wins.

A key feature is that it eliminates a requirement that the Postal Service fund retiree benefits 75 years in advance. That change is projected to save the service more than $100 billion over the next decade. It also shifts retiree medical insurance to Medicare.

The bill requires mail delivery at least six days a week and supports Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-year reform plan.

Left-wing Democrats wanted the bill to better protect voting by mail, but the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., resisted loading the bill with elements that could hurt its chance of passing.

The bill’s prospects are good in the Senate, where it has more than two dozen co-sponsors, split between the parties. Both Alaska senators are co-sponsors.

It passed the House 342-92. Members of the Freedom Caucus and other right-wing Republicans voted no.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.