[Congressional Record Volume 152, Number 135 (Friday, December 8, 2006)]
[Pages S11821-S11822]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. FRIST. I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to the 
immediate consideration of H.R. 6407 which was received from the House.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report bill by title.
  The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 6407) to reform the postal laws of the United 

  There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill.

                     discretionary budget transfer

  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I rise, first and foremost, to 
congratulate Chairman Collins and Senator Carper for getting their 
postal reform bill to the finish line. This bill has been a gargantuan 
task for both Senators. It has been a long time coming. Some have 
observed that it has taken over 30 years for the Congress to pass 
legislation that fundamentally reforms the Postal Service. This bill is 
critically important to the long-term fiscal health of our Postal 
Service. It is equally important to the well-being of all our postal 
workers as well as the needs of all citizens and businesses, large and 
small, which use our Postal Service.
  As both of the managers are aware, there was an important issue that 
threatened to derail this legislation at the last minute. Specifically, 
there is a provision in this final bill that has been interpreted as 
having the effect of transferring some $200 million in annual costs 
from the Postal Service to the discretionary budget. More specifically, 
those costs that previously were covered through mandatory spending 
would have to be covered within the tight discretionary budget ceiling 
of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, the 
Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.
  I currently serve as the ranking member of that subcommittee, and I 
expect to serve as its chairman when the 110th Congress convenes. Over 
the course of the 109th Congress, I have spent a great deal of time 
working with Chairman Kit Bond to put together an appropriations bill 
that meets all of the disparate needs addressed in our bill. I can tell 
my colleagues, we do not have an extra $200 million available within 
our allocation to cover the costs of the Postal Service. When the 110th 
Congress convenes, we are likely to have to mark up an appropriations 
bill for the current fiscal year that will be even tighter than the 
bill our committee reported back in July. As such, I can assure my 
colleagues that we will not be in a position to take on these costs 
this year, next year, or in any other year.
  It is important to point out that these costs that are proposed to be 
transferred to the Committee on Appropriations are not new costs to the 
Postal Service. We are accustomed to the practice of authorizing 
committees enacting authorizations for new or expanded activities in 
the hope that the Appropriations Committee will be in a position to 
fund them. But this situation is something very different. Under the 
provisions originally included in this bill, the burden of financing 
the ongoing costs of the Postal Rate Commission, renamed the Postal 
Regulatory Commission, and the USPS inspector general would have 
suddenly been shifted to the Appropriations Committee.
  My understanding is that the original intent of this provision was to 
provide both the Commission and the IG's office with an added degree of 
budget autonomy and independence. However, the original provision had a 
much more dramatic effect. I make no apology for insisting on changes 
to this bill to keep it from happening.
  I am pleased to say that, through a series of discussions today with 
my good friend and colleagues, Senators Collins and Carper, we have 
been able to negotiate some important changes to the original bill. 
Specifically, the provision that seeks to transfer the funding burden 
of these activities to the Appropriations Committee will now be delayed 
until fiscal year 2009. Given the shortness of time and the critical 
need to pass this important legislation today, before this Congress

[[Page S11822]]

adjourns, I agreed to this change rather than insisting that the entire 
funding transfer be stricken. I wish to make clear that my position on 
this bill tonight should not be viewed as signaling any intent on my 
part to fund these activities in 2009 and beyond. To the contrary, I do 
not anticipate that the Appropriations Committee will be in a position 
to fund these activities in 2009, 2010, or in any other year. I agreed 
to this date change to give the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs a full 22 months--almost 2 years--to revisit this 
legislation and bring the costs of these activities back into the 
mandatory budget. If not, these activities will go unfunded. And it 
will not be the fault of the Appropriations Committee if they do go 
unfunded. My colleagues on the Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs Committee are on notice and the Postmaster General is on 
notice. The funding transfer included in this bill for 2009 and beyond 
will need to be fixed. My subcommittee has no intention of absorbing 
these costs. It will be the responsibility of the Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs Committee to bring them back within the revenues 
available to the Postal Service.
  Mr. CARPER. I thank my friend for her statement and for her help in 
moving this critical bill through the Senate tonight. I agree with her 
that the Appropriations Committee should not bear the burden of funding 
the Postal Regulatory Commission and the USPS inspector general. While 
it is important that the Commission and the inspector general enjoy the 
new independence from postal management that we seek to extend them in 
this bill, it is unfair to do so by taking scarce resources away from 
the critical programs overseen by the Appropriations subcommittee 
Senator Murray will soon lead. Our imprecision in drafting the section 
of our bill that Senator Murray refers to should not make her already 
difficult job even harder.
  In the coming weeks and months, I pledge to work closely with Senator 
Murray, her colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, and my 
colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee in seeking a permanent 
solution to the problematic language that Senator Murray has brought to 
our attention.
  Mr. FRIST. I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time 
and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and any 
statements be printed in the Record.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The bill (H.R. 6407) was ordered to a third reading, was read the 
third time, and passed.