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Will the USPS drop Saturday mail delivery?
The United States Postal Service expects the switch to save about $2 billion a year
February 14, 2013
Earlier this month, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced that the U.S. Postal Service will drop Saturday mail delivery beginning Aug. 5
Nevertheless, people should not panic about their mail delivery service just yet. Congress could still prohibit the change from happening.
Faced with continually-shrinking revenues, the proposal calls for five-day delivery of mail while retaining six-day delivery for packages and post office boxes. In 2012, the Postal Service lost $15.9 billion. They expect the switch to five-day delivery to save about $2 billion a year.
“We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings,” Donahoe said.
The Postal Service retained six-day package delivery primarily in response to the growing prevalence of internet-driven business. Donahoe said they can “play an increasingly vital role as a delivery provider of choice . . .”
The decision was met with mixed reviews from members of Congress. U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.) considers five-day delivery a better option than closing rural post offices, another proposal the Postal Service is considering.
“Congressman Walden believes saving it (the Postal Service) requires serious reform, and this is one option that the Postal Service chose,” said his spokesman Andrew Malcolm.
On the other hand, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who sponsored a postal reform bill, recently issued a statement opposing the Postal Service decision.
“Stopping Saturday mail delivery would be a mistake,” he said. “It would cost jobs, cut services, and hurt Oregon’s vote-by-mail system.”
Merkley also criticized the U.S. House of Representatives for their unwillingness to pass his bill, saying they “ignored their responsibility . . . and now the crisis has only gotten worse.”
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also criticized the decision, emphasizing the impact to the vote-by-mail system in particular.
“As a vote-by-mail state, a fully-functioning Postal Service remains at the core of Oregon’s democratic process and it must be protected,” he said.
As it turns out, the five-day delivery proposal may not hold up by the time it is supposed to take effect. Even though the Postal Service now functions as a private business, and receives no federal funding like it did in the past, Congress still governs the operations of the facility, and could overrule their decision.
According to a statement issued by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Congress has mandated that the Postal Service maintain six-day delivery through a provision in an annual appropriation bill. They have not yet passed that bill this year.
Furthermore, in a letter addressed to Reid and other high-ranking members of Congress, Darrell Issa, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Tom Coburn, the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, stated that Congress could ban five-day delivery when their temporary spending measures expire on March 27.
“Given the importance of the Post Office to communities in Nevada and across our nation, such a drastic policy change cannot be enacted without approval from Congress,” Reid said. “Instead, the Postmaster General relied on flawed legal guidance to claim that he can circumvent Congress’ authority on the matter.”
Whether or not the five-day delivery schedule stands, Walden and Merkley have both stressed that Congress needs to set aside partisan differences and develop effective Postal Service reform.
Malcolm said that Walden wants to give the Postal Service the tools they need to compete in the 21st century, so they can continue to provide service for all Oregonians, especially in rural areas.
“I will keep fighting to protect Oregon’s post offices,” Merkley stated, “and make sure Oregonians are getting the service they rely on from the U.S. Postal Service.”