Byrd Package Seeks $875M for USPS

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The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday passed the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, which includes $875 million for the U.S. Postal Service.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-WV, originally wanted a $15 billion homeland security proposal that would have included the full $1.1 billion the USPS had requested for security equipment and mail sanitization through June. The amendment was to be added to an economic stimulus bill, but Byrd changed his mind and reduced the amount to $7.5 billion and tacked it onto the defense appropriations bill, a spokesman said. The proposal includes another $7.5 billion more for New York and other areas hit on Sept. 11.

The bill passed by voice vote and now goes to the full Senate.

According to Byrd, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the proposal will help pay for needed investments in bioterrorism response and prevention, local police, firefighters and healthcare personnel, border security, food inspection and transportation security.

"Homeland defense is one of the most important issues facing our country," Byrd said in a statement. "Federal, state and local agencies are still understaffed, underequipped and underprepared to handle the variety of threats that the nation now faces. Police departments, fire departments and hospitals -- the first line of response to any terrorist attack -- simply cannot wait until next spring for this funding."

Last month, the House of Representatives declined to vote on additional funding for postal security.

The Direct Marketing Association voiced its support for Byrd's proposal.

"Given the events of the past few months, Congress needs to appropriate some funding," said DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen. "The cost of mail sanitization should not be borne exclusively by postal rate payers. It is a national security and national commerce issue, which should be paid for by the national government."

Also, the DMA said any money that goes to the USPS should not slow talk of postal reform.


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