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Senate staves off postal Armageddon with USPS reform bill

Postal bill averts 3,700 post-office closings for at least two years, but fails to address deeper, structural problems in how the postal service manages a vast operation, rivaled only by Wal-Mart in total employment.

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In a rare bipartisan vote, the Senate on Wednesday passed a postal reform bill to head off a potential shutdown at the struggling US Postal Service, which now owes $13 billion to the Treasury and is expected to run out of cash as early as this summer.

The Senate bill aims to ease postal service deficits now approaching $23 million per day by refunding $11 billion in USPS overpayments to a federal retirement system. If Congress fails to act, the postal service could begin closing some 3,700 post offices and as many as 325 mail processing centers beginning May 15.

But the bill’s detractors argue – and its supporters concede – that the legislation does not offer comprehensive solutions for many of the postal service’s long-term challenges, such as a surfeit of facilities and an inability to innovate and find new businesses.

"How to change the postal service to save it is complicated and challenging but together we came up with an answer," said Sen Joe Lieberman (I) of Connecticut, one of the bill's sponsors, to reporters after the vote.

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