DAVID PAKMAN SHOW
ISN’T THIS A FINE KETTLE OF FISH
After weeks of stalemate with Republican leadership over a deal to replace the wide-ranging, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, President Obama has been consulting with a new set of Republican lawmakers — the so-called “common sense caucus” — about the nation’s fiscal issues and the possibility for a deal to resolve them.
Included among the small group of Republican senators the president has consulted on the matter are Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., CBS News has confirmed through multiple sources. A White House official also reached out to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a Republican Senate aide said.
“It was constructive,” Corker told CBS News, of his conversation with the president.
SATURDAY WILL SORT OF BE LIKE SUNDAY: Letters, magazines and bills won’t be delivered on Saturdays anymore starting in August, the Postal Service announced today. The symbolically resonant cutback will save about $2 billion annually in labor and fuel costs — a stark reminder of the service’s abysmal financial condition. The move also will infuriate not only millions of people (those who don’t use email or the Internet and still rely on the mail as one of their main connections to the outside world) but also Congress — which deadlocked on a Postal Service overhaul last year but has nonetheless made clear that it’s not ready to see Saturday mail delivery curtailed.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says surveys done in advance of the announcement found nearly seven in 10 Americans support the switch in the name of cost savings — an assertion that would make it unlikely for lawmakers, especially in the current cash-strapped budgetary environment, to order the USPS to reverse itself. Darrell Issa and Tom Coburn, the top Republicans on the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over USPS, immediately issued a joint endorsement of the Saturday delivery cutbacks. And Democrat Tom Carper — who wrote the postal overhaul the Senate passed last year, which would have assured Saturday delivery for two more years — said he would not stand in the postmaster general’s way of doing “what he believes he can and must do to keep the lights on at the Postal Service, which may be only months away from insolvency.”
The Postal Service lost $15.9 billion in the last fiscal year — triple the loss in 2011, thanks largely to ballooning retiree benefit expenses and the surge in online communication — and even more red ink is forecast for this year. It has defaulted on two recent multibillion-dollar payments to the fund that pays former workers’ medical bills. And that is even after cutting its overhead a combined $15 billion in the past six years mainly by cutting its career workforce 28 percent and getting rid of 200 mail processing locations. Although envelopes will only come to homes and businesses on weekdays, packages will still be delivered six days a week under the plan, because such deliveries are still bringing in plenty of revenue (the volume is up 14 percent since 2010), officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays, and people with boxes could still retrieve regular mail there on the weekend.
A partisan war is brewing that could bring the government to a screeching halt as early as January — and no, it’s not over the fiscal cliff.
It’s all about the filibuster.
Democrats are threatening to change filibuster rules, in what will surely prompt a furious GOP revolt that could make those rare moments of bipartisan consensus even harder to come by during the next Congress.
Here’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering: banning filibusters used to prevent debate from even starting and House-Senate conference committees from ever meeting. He also may make filibusters become actual filibusters — to force senators to carry out the nonstop, talkathon sessions.
Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.
“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”
“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”