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House Republicans in charge of overseeing the U.S. Postal Service say the agency may be playing politics as it considers shuttering all five House-side post offices.
The locations, named Monday, are among a list of 19 considered for closure around the District of Columbia, raising the possibility that the agency could shut down every location on the House side of the Capitol, including the office in the Capitol itself.
Rep. Dennis Ross, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy, said the proposal has a whiff of the "Washington Monument" strategy, an old legislative ploy where an agency threatens to close popular services first, but he said he will leave the business to the experts.
"If it's a shot across the bow, then so be it. That's politics," the Florida Republican said. "The bottom line is they have overcapacity in their processing, they have overcapacity in their postal facilities and this has to be addressed very seriously."
The cash-strapped Postal Service is contemplating closing offices in the Capitol and in the Ford, Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn House office buildings, according to its website.
If those locations close, two post offices would remain on the Hill in the Dirksen and Russell Senate office buildings.
The House would still have a contract with private delivery service Pitney Bowes, which picks up mail from and delivers it directly to Members' and committees' offices.
Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said the Postal Service should consider reducing staff, including its fleet of lobbyists.
"They want to cut our post offices, fine. We want them to cut their legislative activist team in half," the California Republican said. "I'm happy to work with the post office. They're closing a post office in my hometown. I may not like it, but I will not disagree with their judgment."
Issa and Ross introduced a bill last month that would establish two oversight boards to pursue billions of dollars in cost reductions at the agency.
Ross said a solution at the Capitol may be to set up a "village post office," such as a limited service location in the Capitol gift shop. But he would like to know the criteria for closing locations and why House-side offices are on the list and Senate sites aren't. He said he will bring it up with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe when they speak later this week.
But the Capitol closures are far from a done deal, said USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan. The list is just the start of a study process to determine which locations to shutter.
The locations appear "on a computer-generated list that searched for specific criteria like light foot traffic and low revenue," Brennan said. "Local management will verify the information then proceed with community notification and request for input."
The Capitol Hill community will have 60 days to submit comments to the Postal Service.
Facing sagging revenues, the agency, which has not turned a profit since 2006, is considering closing 3,653 locations around the country.