* W.House budget renews call for five-day mail, rate hikes
* Obama previously proposed similar USPS changes last year
By Emily Stephenson
WASHINGTON, Feb 13 President Barack
Obama's proposed 2013 budget repeated a call to allow the U.S.
Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery and tap into a
retirement-fund surplus, as lawmakers hash out the details of
The budget outline released on Monday included several steps
to provide relief to the cash-strapped Postal Service that
closely matched plans the Obama administration proposed in
September 2011 as part of a deficit-reduction plan.
The 2013 budget updated the amount of savings expected from
recapturing a retirement-fund surplus and other steps to $25
billion over 11 years. Last year's plan forecast savings of $19
billion over 10 years.
The president's updated proposal comes as pressure mounts on
Congress to pass legislation overhauling the Postal Service. The
agency announced last week it lost $3.3 billion in its most
recent quarter, much of it due to a payment to prefund retiree
"Congress and the administration are in agreement that key
reforms and resources are necessary if we hope to help the
Postal Service recover and thrive," said Democratic Senator
Thomas Carper in a statement.
So far, agreement that reform is needed has been
overshadowed by disagreements over post office closings, ending
Saturday mail delivery and restructuring benefit obligations.
Eroding mail volumes have hurt the Postal Service as
consumers send more email and pay bills online. At the same
time, the agency is struggling with high costs, including the
prefunding retiree payment, putting the USPS on the brink of
The White House plan would reduce the prefunding payments in
the short-term, and allow USPS to offer more services to state
and local governments and raise postage rates. Many of these
proposals appear in a U.S. Senate bill from Carper and others.
But lawmakers remain split on how to help the USPS, which
relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than
taxpayer funding. Some want to eliminate the prefunding, while
others say that could lead to a taxpayer bailout of USPS
benefits. Raising postage rates is controversial, as is ending
"(The president) is wrong to suggest the ending of Saturday
mail delivery service," Independent Senator Bernie Sanders told
Reuters. "In the long run, if the Postal Service is to grow and
become financially stronger, speed and maintaining the current
mail delivery standards are terribly important."
Rural lawmakers have criticized bills in the House of
Representatives and Senate for allowing the Postal Service to
close some post offices and processing facilities. The White
House plan is silent on the issue.
The agency is considering closing thousands of facilities
this year. Postal officials agreed to a moratorium on closings
until mid-May but are continuing to look at which facilities
More than 100 lawmakers in the House sent a letter to
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on Monday calling for the
agency to consider obtaining more data before closing post
offices. They cited a recent report from the Postal Regulatory
Commission that said the service could have done more analysis
to determine which post offices to close.
"The closure of post offices, stations and branches will
undoubtedly affect communities and lead to the loss of middle
class jobs," the letter states.