Fiscal conservatives applauded the U.S. Postal Service’s announcement today that it will eliminate Saturday delivery of first-class mail — but not packages — beginning in August, but two key senators panned it.
Postal Service officials believe they can make the change because the continuing appropriations bill (PL 112-175), which expires on March 27, does not include a customary rider holding them to six-day-a-week mail delivery, said Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.
“We think that we’re on good footing with this,” he said. “It’s not a hair-splitter, loophole type of approach.”
If there is a lawsuit or members of Congress disagree with the Postal Service legal team’s assessment, there are several weeks to work out language to include in the next appropriations measure, he added.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday he was sympathetic to what Donahoe and fellow officials are trying to do. “I understand where the postal commission’s coming from. They’re in charge with running the post office. But yet the Congress, in its wisdom, has tied their hands every which way in order for them to actually run the post office in a revenue-neutral way,” he said.
“I know that (Oversight and Government Reform) Chairman (Darrell) Issa is interested in moving the postal reform bill. I know that they are having bipartisan conversations about how to do this, and I would hope that the Congress would act in a timely fashion,” Boehner said.
Although Saturday delivery of letters and magazines will end the week of Aug. 5, delivery of packages, which is profitable, will continue. Maintaining Saturday package delivery also eliminates one of the primary concerns of some legislators, that the elderly and veterans would not be able to receive mail-order prescription medications on Saturdays.
Issa supported the move. “The postmaster is maintaining six-day delivery [of packages] while at the same time making sure he doesn’t lose several billion dollars,” he said.
“Today the post office made a smart business decision because of low demand,” added Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., now the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who “applauded” the move.
In a letter to House and Senate majority and minority leaders, Issa and Coburn requested that the rider, which ties six-day-a-week service to a $100 million reimbursement for services used by the federal government, be left out of any subsequent appropriations measures.
But any move to five-day-per-week service should be made over a longer timeline in a manner similar to that outlined in a bill the Senate passed last year, said Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, in a release.
“Piecemeal efforts like the one the Postal Service announced today will not be enough to solve the Postal Service’s financial challenges for the long haul,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the former ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, tweeted that the Postal Service decision “is inconsistent with current law and threatens to further jeopardize its customer base.”
And New York Democratic Rep. José E. Serrano said USPS is acting outside its legal authority in suspending Saturday delivery. “The passage of the continuing resolution did not suspend that language, as they claim, but in fact extended it,” he said in a release.
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