Electric postal trucks face uphill battle in Congress
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
The fight to get taxpayers to fund a new fleet of electric mail trucks promises to be intense with little certainty of the outcome.
That’s the clear conclusion after a prolonged 5½-hour markup the House Oversight Committee held Sept. 2.
Under discussion at the committee’s session was a Democratic-backed measure that promises billions to the financially troubled United States Postal Service for its long-awaited next generation delivery vehicles and other projects that one Republican said would lead the United States into “a socialist quagmire.”
The GOP members of the committee came to the online session armed with a slew of amendments, all aimed at undermining the Democrats’ hopes.
“But why are we rushing?” asked Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., as he led the Republican opposition to the funding bill.
“I have an idea,” he said, answering his own question.
“We are rushing to talk about electric postal trucks and the rest of the federal fleet because President Biden needs a distraction,” Comer said.
That was the GOP committee members’ theme as they attacked Democrats for rejecting their calls to concentrate on the president’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal instead of a $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act.
The panel’s Democratic majority held fast, sinking every Republican amendment.
But the Republicans’ solid opposition to electric trucks signals that the measure could face trouble in the closely divided Senate.
Democrats may need some GOP votes to pass the measure there.
The measure helping the U.S. Postal Service finally cleared the oversight committee on a 25-to-18 party-line vote.
It now goes to the House Budget Committee where other Build Back Better programs sought by Biden will be added.
“EVs [electric vehicles] are the vehicles of the future,” proclaimed the oversight committee’s Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., as she opened what quickly devolved into a partisan fight over the taxpayer money the Postal Service says is vital if it is to have a fully electric fleet.
“To continue purchasing gas-guzzling vehicles is not only bad for the environment, it is bad for taxpayers,” Maloney argued.
Republicans were not buying the idea, saying the real cost of the postal trucks is much higher than the $7.4 billion the measure would provide for new trucks for the USPS and other federal agencies.
“You and I both know that the postal fleet alone would cost at least $8 billion to electrify,” Comer said.
The measure would give the Postal Service $1.2 billion for electric trucks, according to the committee.
It would also give the agency another $1.2 billion for charging stations and infrastructure to support the vehicles.
Another provision would give the Postal Service $10 million more for other infrastructure improvements.
In their arguments for the trucks, Democrats stressed that the Postal Service’s board of governors wants the aid. And they pointed out the board is dominated by appointees of former President Donald Trump.
The governors have called direct taxpayer support essential.
Initially the Postal Service was planning for only 10 percent of its new fleet to be electric, but pressure from Biden for an all-electric fleet has forced it to reconsider.
At the session, Republicans pushed unsuccessfully for more studies of the electric fleet, expressing doubts about the project.
Comer also urged reforms for Postal Service operations that would end the agency’s years of multibillion dollar deficits.
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., suggested the truck purchase simply was a form of “corporate welfare” for truck manufacturers.
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