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Postal Service bailout? USPS billions in the red as lawmakers push reform

It might feel like first-class postage is going up every few weeks, but the U.S. Postal Service nevertheless is in need of a bailout. 

Frank Todisco, chief actuary for the Government Accountability Office, told a House committee last week that the agency had $100 billion in debt and unfunded health benefit liabilities at the end of the last fiscal year. 

At this stage, even the Postal Service admits it needs help. 

"Despite our efforts and our hard work, we cannot return the organization to profitability or secure our long term financial outlook without the passage of comprehensive reform legislation," Jeffrey Williamson, United States Postal Service executive vice president, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently. 

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has ideas for how to fix it, and says part of that is convincing members of his own party that six-days-per-week mail delivery doesn't make sense. 

"Much of what I have to do is to get my fellow Republicans to swallow the pills of five-day delivery -- going to the curb for delivery, right-sizing the size of the post office, quite candidly changing their medical retirement system to make it streamline with the rest of the workforce in America, by putting them on Medicare and out of a very expensive private program that you and I pay for," Issa told Fox News. 

Delaware Democratic Sen. Tom Carper and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn have a bill with bipartisan support in the Senate. The Senate proposal would move to five-day delivery after 2017, keep all processing facilities open for at least two more years, and allow the U.S. Postal Service to recover overpayments into the federal pension system. 

"Not only does our bill modernize the Postal Service and give it the tools and resources it needs to make tough but necessary business decisions to cut costs and increase revenue, but it also directly addresses the source of the Postal Service's two biggest financial liabilities -- retiree pension costs and health care costs -- so taxpayers won't be left on the hook for these obligations in the future," Carper told Fox News. 

As for the challenges of getting such an overhaul passed during an election year, Issa says the time is now. 

"There is no better time than in an election year for people to call up and say I don't want to be paying out of my general tax revenue for somebody else's junk mail being delivered," Issa said. "That kind of message will cause people to make a reform this year."

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.