Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today on postal reform. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
For more than 200 years, America’s postal system thrived and grew in spite of rapidly-changing technology.
The Postal Service survived the invention of the telegraph and the telephone. It expanded despite radio and television. It grew regardless of the fax machine.
The post office was created in the days of quill and ink, and mail bags slung across horses.
But it grew through the days of horse and buggy, steamboat and railroad into the age of airplanes.
It adjusted to the expansion of the suburbs, to the growth of cities and to the explosion of our population.
And it adapted from hand sorting and conveyor belts with the invention of zip codes and optical sorting machines.
The post office has always found creative, cutting-edge ways to move more mail more quickly.
In fact, for two centuries, the Postal Service actually relied on technology to cope with constant growth – growth in the volume of mail it delivered and the number of homes and businesses to whom it delivered.
And for 200 years the Postal Service has kept up with the flood of packages and letters, mail-order and online purchases, catalogues and fliers, live-saving medications and absentee ballots, bulk mail and overnight delivery.
Today the Postal Service handles nearly half the world’s mail – 554 million pieces every day. That’s 6,400 pieces each second.
The feat would be impossible without modern technology, and world class workers and facilities.
But now technology is both a solution and a problem.
In the last 5 years, the Postal Service has seen mail volume drop by 21 percent. That trend is expected to continue.
Email and online bill payments has significantly contributed to this crisis.
Today letters, orders and payments cross the world with the click of a mouse.
And the challenge facing the Postal Service is how to adapt to decreasing volume of mail rather than how to deal with increasing demand.
The bipartisan compromise before the Senate today will help the system do just that. It will build a leaner, smarter post office that offers new products and services while protecting its mission – delivering the mail six days a week to every corner of this country.
The postal reform legislation before this body will sensibly restructure the system while preserving overnight and Saturday delivery.
And the legislation will save the Postal Service from insolvency.
It will responsibly reduce the Postal Service workforce and the number of facilities it maintains.
But it will also protect postal employees – including 130,000 veterans of the Armed Forces. It will also safeguard the than 8 million jobs that depend on a vibrant postal system.
And, most importantly, it will look out for the needs of millions of seniors, people with disabilities, small business owners and rural Americans for whom the U.S. Mail is an important lifeline to the outside world.
Unlike the unacceptable bill Congressman Issa is pursuing in the House, this bill preserves the Postal Service we know and rely on.
The House bill, by contrast, would immediately eliminate Saturday delivery.
And it would set up commissions to unilaterally cut costs by closing post offices and processing plants, voiding union contracts and laying off tens of thousands of workers when our economy can least afford it.
That may be why Congressman Issa’s bill hasn’t come to the House floor. Even the Tea Party is having trouble supporting such reckless ideas.
The Senate bill we’re considering today is not perfect.
It won’t save every post office, every job or distribution center. It won’t please every Senator, every postal worker or every customer.
But unlike the House legislation, it is a strong, bipartisan bill that will modernize an institution enshrined in the Constitution without gutting its mission.
I hope we can work together to pass this worthy legislation quickly.