Sen. Rick Scott blocked a largely bipartisan U.S. Postal Service reform bill Monday night in the Senate, outraging Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and mystifying others.
Scott did so when he objected to Schumer’s procedural move that would have pushed to the Senate floor a House version of the bill that had been overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House last week.
But the version Schumer offered of the bill (House Resolution 3076) contained an error, which Schumer sought to dismiss as a “technical change.” Schumer attempted to use arcane Senate rules to get that bill to the Senate floor for a quick consent vote, with the understanding the technical change would be fixed later.
“I object,” Scott said on the floor, forcing Schumer to give up his effort and return the bill to the House of Representatives.
“Nobody should be standing in the way of this bill. It’s a sad day that just one member has,” Schumer angrily said later.
Scott insisted in two floor speeches Monday night and in a news release his office posted later that his objection was not because of the technical change, but rather he used the opportunity of Schumer’s necessary rules maneuver to slow down what he considers a bad bill.
Scott expounded on his concerns for how HR 3076 might affect an already burdened Medicare program, by moving Postal Service retirees and their costs to that program from the service’s expensive retirement system. He called for more long-term budget analysis. He expressed doubt the bill would fix the Post Office’s services and financial problems. He even predicted the bill would make things worse. And he expressed indignation that Senate leadership, including Schumer, wanted the House bill to skip Senate committee hearings.
Scott also asked the Congressional Budget Office for long-term projections, for the years 2031-2040, of the budgetary effects on Medicare.
“Given the scope of the legislation, given the potential negative impact to postal workers, taxpayers, consumers, Medicare recipients and seniors, the Senate should carefully and thoughtfully consider this bill,” Scott said. “We should take all appropriate steps to make sure we get this right. The Senate has not been afforded the opportunity to do that. Therefore, I object.”
In doing so, Scott carved out what may be a lonely lane. Schumer boasted of widespread bipartisan support for swift approval in the Senate.
On the floor Monday night, an exasperated Schumer contended leaders of both parties and in postal workers’ unions viewed HR 3076 as the long-sought fix for the long-beleaguered Postal Service.
“Finally, both parties come together in a bipartisan way in the House and Senate, to pass this legislation, and the Senator from Florida is using a technical detail to hold us up,” Schumer said.
Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who sponsored the Senate Version (SB 1720), contended the reforms in the bill are things that have been discussed in Congress for a decade.
“Over the last year-and-a-half we’ve been working on bipartisan, bicameral legislation,” Peters said on the floor. “In fact, the bill that I introduced here in the Senate, which is basically the bill that is before us from the House, has 28 co-sponsors: 14 Republicans, 14 Democrats. How many bills do we have on the floor here that have that much support from both sides? … Instead, we have a procedural blocking technique to slow this down.”
Schumer insisted what Scott has done only slows down the bill. He vowed it would still pass the Senate.
The bill has multiple components.
It would restructure the Postal Service’s health care plan, moving eligible employees and retirees onto Medicare. It would require the Postal Service to create performance targets for its delivery of “dominant products” — like letters, magazines and catalogs — and to publish weekly performance data on how it’s doing to meet those targets. The bill would require the Postal Service to maintain six-day service. It would give the Postal Service power to enter new agreements with local governments for things like enhancing services in rural communities. It would make some changes in how the Postal Service’s budget is approved and overseen. It would require more regular reporting of the Postal Service’s financial and operational conditions.
That’s a lot for the Senate to take it up in a consent vote like Schumer wanted Monday night, Scott argued.
“I care deeply about fixing the problems with the United States Postal Service,” Scott said.
“We aren’t here just to consider a simple resolution,” he said. “This is a massive, multibillion-dollar bill that has huge impacts on Medicare recipients. And the Democratic majority skipped the committee process and rushed the bill to the floor.”