Congress to force Postal Service to keep Saturday delivery

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:00pm EDT

A view shows U.S. postal service mail boxes at a post office in Encinitas, California February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A view shows U.S. postal service mail boxes at a post office in Encinitas, California February 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress foiled the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service's plan to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail when it passed legislation on Thursday requiring six-day delivery.

The Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, said last month it wanted to switch to five-day mail service to save $2 billion annually.

Congress traditionally has included a provision in legislation to fund the federal government each year that has prevented the Postal Service from reducing delivery service. The Postal Service had asked Congress not to include the provision this time around.

Despite the request, the House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that maintains the provision, sending it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The Senate approved the measure on Wednesday.

But some lawmakers who support the Postal Service's plan have said there may still be some room for it to change its delivery schedule. They point out that the language requiring six-day delivery is vague and does not prohibit altering what products it delivers on Saturdays.

The Postal Service has said that while it would not pick up or deliver first-class mail, magazines and direct mail, it would continue to deliver packages and pharmaceutical drugs on Saturdays.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Representative Darrell Issa of California on Thursday told the USPS Board of Governors to move forward with implementing the five-day delivery plan for mail.

"The Board of Governors has a fiduciary responsibility to utilize its legal authority to implement modified 6-day mail delivery as recently proposed," the lawmakers said in their letter to the USPS board.

The Postal Service, they said, is in such dire financial need that it must implement all measures to resolve its problems.

LEGALITY IN QUESTION

Several polls have shown a majority of the public supports ending six-day delivery of first-class mail.

The plan for a new delivery schedule would respond to customers' changing needs and help keep the Postal Service from becoming a burden to taxpayers, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said.

A number of lawmakers and trade groups said the plan to cut Saturday mail service is illegal because the Postal Service requires Congress' approval before it makes such a decision.

Democratic Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia said in a letter to the Government Accountability Office on Thursday that the Postal Service is still bound by the six-day requirement.

"Unfortunately, the Postmaster General continues to stonewall members of Congress, withholding his legal justifications for eliminating Saturday delivery from postal customers and the American public," Connolly said.

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in a statement on Thursday that cutting Saturday mail delivery would harm rural communities and small businesses and "only serve to accelerate a financial ‘death spiral' for the Postal Service."

DROWNING IN LOSSES

The Postal Service, an independent agency not funded by taxpayers, has said it could need a taxpayer bailout of more than $47 billion by 2017 if Congress does not give it flexibility to change its business model and provide it relief from huge benefit payments.

It had planned to drop Saturday first-class mail delivery in August.

Ending six-day, first-class mail delivery is part of the Postal Service's larger plan to cut costs and raise revenues.

The mail carrier loses $25 million each day. The vast majority of the losses come from heavy mandatory payments into its future retirees' health fund take a toll, but it has also suffered as more Americans communicate by email and the Internet.

The Postal Service could run out of money by October if Congress does not provide legislative relief, some experts have estimated.

"Once the delivery schedule language ... becomes law, we will discuss it with our Board of Governors to determine our next steps," Partenheimer said.

(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Karey Van Hall, Doina Chiacu and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (22)
JL4 wrote:
“A number of lawmakers and trade groups said the plan to cut Saturday mail service is illegal because the Postal Service requires Congress’ approval before it makes such a decision.”

That’s it? Which lawmakers and trade groups? I’d like to know who they are.

I’m a Democrat, but I think the Republicans are right on this one. If the Postal Service is losing $25 million a day, something needs to be done, and reducing to a six-day delivery service to help only makes sense.

Mar 21, 2013 11:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
revamadison wrote:
I was against it from the beginning, and still am. Without Saturday service, it means that people would possibly not receive mail for up to 3 days, at times. Lets say there is a federal holiday, which usually either happens on a Friday or a Monday. With either of those days, plus Saturday and Sunday, that’s just too long between deliverys. Just a short 20 years ago, The GPO in Britian was still delivering mail to homes, twice a day on weekdays. They were not going broke.

Our main problem is the non first class mail delivery. Why should a magazine or catalog company be able to send such heavy mail at outrageous rates? If they were charged the same rate as the first class mail, we sure would stop seeing the same old catalog delivered at our house 5 or 6 times a month. They claim a a large reduction in letter mail, due to the internet. Just why are catalog companies increasing their mailings. They too have internet, and web pages to order from. Those web pages are much more easily updated, and certainly can carry more items than any catalog, so why do the companies not use those. A decrease in catalogs, alone, would seem to indicate a huge savings in handling, machinery for sorting, fuel for delivery vans and trucks, etc. Probably a large decrease in people needed to handle the truly needed resources for 1st class mail, as well.

I cans till remember walking into the post office, and asking for air mail stamps, the day after first class postage was raised from 3 cents for a normal letter. I was told “we no longer sell air mail stamps “because all mail goes airmail today, and should be received at the other end, in one day” Yeah, right! Im still waiting for that service, which never happened, and today one pays over $12.00 for an overnight delivery. Mismanagement, misdelivery, pure waste, with some carriers even throwing away mail, as trash, has not helped the USPS serve us as they should.

Mar 21, 2013 11:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
brotherkenny4 wrote:
The USPS offers good value to consumers for certain items. Congress chooses to run them at a loss. Either increase the price or cut services. It doesn’t take a genius to run this at a break even point, but when you have political morons running it, it will run at a loss.

I use the USPS all the time for snmall packages. There is no one in private industry that can match them.

Mar 21, 2013 11:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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