* Subcommittee approves Issa's U.S. Postal Service bill
* Bill would end Saturday mail, front-door delivery
* House votes against health payment deadline extension
By Emily Stephenson
WASHINGTON, Sept 21 A House of Representatives
panel on Wednesday approved a bill that would end Saturday mail
delivery by the U.S. Postal Service and establish a process
that could lead to worker layoffs at the cash-strapped agency.
Republican lawmakers overrode the objections of their
Democratic counterparts to approve the bill which would also
phase out delivery to front-door mail slots as part of an
overhaul of the service.
The Postal Service has seen mail volumes plummet in recent
years as more customers send email and pay bills online.
The agency has said it needs to reduce payrolls by about
220,000 by 2015 and is studying thousands of post offices and
about 300 processing facilities for possible closure.
"The only way out of the U.S. Postal Service's current mess
is to vastly restructure its operations, reducing the
organization's workforce and labor costs and providing it the
tools needed to compete," said subcommittee Chairman Dennis
Several lawmakers from both parties criticized the
cost-focused bill proposed by Republican Darrell Issa, chairman
of the powerful House Oversight Committee, saying it would
limit the Postal Service's ability to serve its customers by
allowing the agency to stop delivering mail on Saturdays.
The Postal Service has asked for that authority, saying
weekend mail volumes are too low to justify Saturday delivery.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, said reducing
service could cause customers to send even less mail.
Analysts have said the move to five-day mail delivery could
hurt e-commerce businesses who rely on the Postal Service to
carry their products to consumers. [ID:nN1E7881QF]
Democrats tried to paint Issa's bill, which moves to the
full Oversight Committee for consideration, as anti-union. They
pointed to a provision that would form an independent group to
cut costs -- including laying off workers and moving others to
retirement -- if the Postal Service misses mandatory payments.
Republicans said the bill would help shrink the Postal
Service to a sustainable size.
Officials announced last week plans to end next-day
delivery of First Class mail in order to reduce overnight
Representatives Elijah Cummings and Stephen Lynch earlier
on Wednesday announced a new bill to return to the Postal
Service $6.9 billion it says it overpaid to a federal
retirement fund, allow the agency to offer new products such as
wine and beer, and give it more flexibility to raise rates.
Cummings said the bill, which closely follows an Obama
administration plan released on Monday, would be more
successful in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The White House says its plan -- which differs from the
Cummings bill in that it would cut Saturday mail -- would save
about $20 billion in the next few years. (View the proposal
Democrats and the White House also want to restructure a
massive, Congress-mandated payment to prefund retiree health
benefits that is due at the end of September each year.
Lawmakers voted down on Wednesday a continuing budget
resolution that would have extended until mid-November the
deadline for this year's $5.5 billion payment, which the Postal
Service says it cannot afford.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)